Treating MS with vitamin D shows promising results in mice

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease affecting around 400,000 Americans every year. Statistics tell us that around 200 new cases of MS are diagnosed every week. In this disease, the cells of the immune system attack the myelin sheath of the nerves. Progressive demyelination leads to symptoms like altered vision, difficulty in walking and balancing and cognitive problems like loss of memory and thinking clearly. Till date, no cure has been found for the disease. The medication used in the treatment of MS can, at best, stall the progression of the symptoms for some time. It is in this context that a new study published in the latest issue of The Journal of Neuroimmunology becomes very important. In this study which was led by Professor Colleen Hayes, a biochemist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the researchers have claimed to achieve complete remission of MS in lab mice with the help of vitamin D.

The researchers compared the effect of vitamin D based treatments with the standard treatments currently in use to treat MS. First of all, a single dose of calcitriol, the active ingredient of vitamin D was given to mice suffering from MS. Comparable amounts of glucocorticoid was given to another set of mice. It was seen that 92% of mice receiving calcitriol went into a 9 day remission compared to just 6 days remission in 58% of mice receiving glucocorticoid. Next, the mice were given a weekly dose of calcitriol. The disease went into remission for an indefinite period. However, weekly dose of calcitriol was associated with several side effects.

Thereafter, the researchers tried a single dose of calcitriol followed by maintenance dose of vitamin D supplements. The researchers were surprised to notice that 100% of the mice went into remission. The researchers are very optimistic with the results obtained in the study and want to go for human trials. However, they have pointed out that mice are genetically homogenous whereas human beings are diverse. So, it may not be possible to replicate the results in human beings suffering from MS. But still, the results of the study are very promising and definitely warrant human trials.

Dr. Bimal Rajalingam MBBS DNB 
Monday, September 23, 2013
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