A natural protein in our body plus Vitamin D, one of the easily sourced vitamins on the planet now, have the potential in repairing damage to the myelin sheath in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study conducted by the University of Cambridge. The study was published in the Journal of Cell Biology and provides significant evidence for Vitamin D to be used for possible medical treatment of MS in the future.
The MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair scientists pointed out that when the Vitamin D receptor protein pairs with an existing protein called the RXR gamma receptor, already known to be involved in the repair of the myelin, the protective sheath surrounding our nerve fibers.
By adding the Vitamin D to brain stem cells where the proteins are present, the researchers discovered the production rate of oligodendrocytes (myelin-making cells) increased by 80%. When the Vitamin D receptor is blocked to stop it from working, the RXR gamma protein by itself cannot stimulate the production of oligodendrocytes.
“This work provides significant evidence that vitamin D is involved in the regeneration of myelin once the disease has started,” Robin Franklin, a professor from the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair and the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Stem Cell Institute, and who led the study, said.
When a person has MS, the body’s own immune system attacks and damages myelin, the sheath covering our nerves, causing interruptions to messages sent around the brain and spinal cord. When this happens, the person experiences pain, problems with balance and mobility, and extreme fatigue. Although the body has a natural ability to repair the myelin, this ability becomes less effective as we age.
Professor Franklin said that this recent discovery of the importance of Vitamin D in collaboration with the protein has far-reaching significance for finding a cure for MS. “For years, scientists have been searching for a way to repair damage to myelin. So far, the majority of research on vitamin D has looked at its role in the cause of the disease.”
Franklin said their current work provides vital evidence that Vitamin D is also involved in the regeneration of myelin once MS has started. “In the future we could see a myelin repair drug that works by targeting the Vitamin D receptor,” asserted Professor Franklin.
It is reported that more than 100,000 people in the U.K. have multiple sclerosis, and finding more treatments that can either stop, slow, or reverse the disease is a priority of the MS Society, said Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, Head of Biomedical Research at the U.K. MS Society.
“We’d now like to see more studies to understand whether taking vitamin D supplements could, in time, be an effective and safe treatment for people with MS,” Dr. Susan added. She added that for now, research for an MS cure is still in its infancy stage. More studies are needed before they could arrive at a conclusion and plan new treatments. At this point, she encouraged people not to be deficient in Vitamin D.
The scientists are going to research further on the underlying structure of this Vitamin D receptor before they could safely apply their discovery in future trials on people with MS. Vitamin D also is the vitamin which is easily sourced from the environment, particularly from early morning sunlight. It can also be sourced from supplements from your nearby drugstore.
So what do you think of this finding on Vitamin D and its treatment of nerve damage among MS sufferers? Share your opinions in the comments below.