Vitamin D known to reduce risk of osteoporosis appears to play another role in treating lupus
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, when the body’s immune system attacks its tissues and organs. Inflammation from the disease can affect many different body systems including joints, skin, blood cells, heart and lungs.View slideshow: Herbs and supplements
The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million people worldwide, have a form of lupus. Although lupus can strike men and women of all ages, 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with the disease are women. Most people will develop lupus between the ages of 15-44.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) accounts for approximately 70 percent of all cases of lupus. In approximately half of these cases, a major organ, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys or brain, will be affected.
In a new clinical trial researchers provide preliminary evidence that vitamin D supplementation could be considered an immunomodulatory agent for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
SLE is a T- and B-cell-dependent disease that causes an appearance of auto-antibodies, causing the body to attack itself. Patients present with a depletion of regulatory T cells (Tregs) that normally protect against autoimmune disease, an increase in cytokine-producing T helper (Th) 17 cells and an increase in IFN-inducible genes, which trigger the body's protective responses. Recent studies have shown that vitamin D could ameliorate these effects.
In this prospective study, researchers evaluated the safety and the immunological effects of vitamin D supplementation.
Dr. Nathalie Costedoat-Chalumeau, at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital and colleagues observed 20 with hypovitaminosis D (deficiency of vitamin D) over six months and found as not only well-tolerated but, more importantly, there were no SLE flare-ups during the follow-up period.
Vitamin D supplementation in these patients caused an increase in beneficial CD4+ cells (mature Th cells), an increase in Treg cells and a decrease of effector Th1 and Th17 cells. It also induced a decrease of memory B cell and anti-DNA antibodies all beneficial for SLE symptoms. The researcher s found found that no modification of existing immunosuppressant drugs was needed, nor any new drugs initiated.
The researchers concluded “This preliminary study suggests the beneficial role of vitamin D in SLE patients and needs to be confirmed in randomized controlled trials.”
Dr. Costedoat-Chalumeauelieves that the findings confirm that vitamin D may also play other roles in the immune system. She said "The study has highlighted interesting pathways to explore. Among the identified signatures, we observed the down-regulation of RNA polymerase functions and histone expression and the up-regulation of the TP53/CDKN1A-related pathway. These deserve further research owing to their possible involvement with a decrease in the accumulation of autoantigens and the activation and proliferation of autoreactive T and B lymphocytes."
This study is published in BioMedCentral’s open access journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.
Last year a research team led by Dr. Lauren Ritterhouse, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, found that vitamin D levels among SLE patients directly relates to the severity of the disease and the development of the autoimmune disease.
They also found that a destructive inflammatory marker was more widespread in patients with vitamin D deficiency. The inflammatory marker wasn't seen as much among patients who had the highest levels of the vitamin.
It would appear from the study that SLE patients may benefit from vitamin D supplements.
Further information on lupus can be viewed online at the Lupus Foundation.