The Irish Examiner picked up a press release covering University of Edinburgh’s research revealing the connection between vitamin D deficiency and an increase to susceptibility to multiple sclerosis (MS). The Edinburgh group also reports that their study may have shed light on how vitamin D deficiency may influence the risk of autoimmune disease. The body produces vitamin D in response to sunlight and the researchers explored how it affects a mechanism in the immune system—dendritic cells’ ability to active T cells. T cells play a key role in fighting infection but when autoimmune disease is present, they can start attacking the body’s own tissues.
The team studied cells from both mice and humans and found that vitamin D caused dendritic cells to produce more of a molecule called CD31 on their surface and that this has hindered the activation of T cells. This study has revealed at least one way in which vitamin D metabolites can influence the immune system. The study was published in Frontiers of Immunology and funded by the Medical Research Council, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Wellcome.
Richard Mellanby, Professor, University of Edinburgh, Centre for Inflammation Research