- Vitamin D supplementation can help prevent inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis in patients can lead to vitamin D insensitivity
- Higher doses of vitamin D is needed to correct vitamin D insensitivity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis
Intake of sufficient vitamin D can help prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, reveals a recent study led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.
Effects of Vitamin D on Rheumatoid Arthritis
Vitamin D is effective in preventing the onset of inflammation. However, it was found to be less efficient once the disease has been established, because inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis lead to vitamin D insensitivity, revealed the research team.
The research team suggested that if vitamin D has to be given to rheumatoid arthritis patients, clinicians are advised to prescribe much higher doses or provide treatment, which can correct the vitamin D insensitivity of immune cells within the joints.
Also, vitamin D was found to be a potent modulator of the immune system.
Vitamin D can suppress inflammation in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis patients are usually vitamin D deficient and receive vitamin D supplementation.
The study was published in the Journal of Autoimmunity. In this study, paired synovial fluid and peripheral blood from the inflamed joint of rheumatoid arthritis patients have been involved.
"Our current understanding of vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis is based on studies of patient blood which may not truly represent the situation at the site of inflammation - the joints," said Professor Martin Hewison, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research.
Therefore, the research team investigated responses of patients with rheumatoid arthritis to the active form of vitamin D in immune cells from the inflamed joints.
Vitamin D in the Inflamed Joints
When compared to the blood from same patients, immune cells were found to be less sensitive to active vitamin D in the inflamed joint. This could be due to immune cells from the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis were more prone to inflammation, and are less likely to change.
"Our research indicates that maintaining sufficient vitamin D may help to prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis," said Dr. Louisa Jeffery, also of the University of Birmingham.
However, the research team revealed that just providing vitamin D for patients with rheumatoid arthritis may not be enough. Therefore, much higher doses of vitamin D are needed, and maybe even a novel treatment that corrects the vitamin D insensitivity of immune cells within the joint is essential.
Senior author Professor Karim Raza, also of the University of Birmingham, said that these findings were unexpected. As the research team has initially thought that cells from the inflamed rheumatoid joint would respond well to vitamin D, just as cells from the blood.
Need for Further Research
In this study, the research team has isolated different immune cell types from the actual site of disease. They have examined specific subsets of immune cells (specific T cell groups) to check if they have equal sensitivity to vitamin D.
This study is the first of its kind to characterize the impact of vitamin D in both peripheral blood and inflamed joints of inflammatory disease patients.
The study was conducted in collaboration with Professor David Sansom at University College London, as part of an ongoing research project, which first began in 2011.
The university now hopes to conduct further research to determine why rheumatoid arthritis leads to vitamin D insensitivity, how to overcome and to check if this effect is seen in any other inflammatory diseases.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints and the surrounding tissues. RA can occur at any age, but is more common in middle age and women are more prone to develop the disease than men.
The exact cause of RA is not known. However, infection, genes and hormonal changes could be linked to the disease. It can lead to pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints, which can also affect other organs in the body.
The rheumatoid factor (RF) can be found in the blood and synovial fluid in about 80 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients. RA requires lifelong treatment with medications, physical therapy, exercise, education and surgery. Early detection and aggressive treatment can delay joint destruction.
- What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?