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Vitamin D Supplements may Benefit Lupus Patients: Study

by Sheela Philomena on October 19, 2012 at 5:02 PM
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 Vitamin D Supplements may Benefit Lupus Patients: Study

According to a recent study, vitamin D supplementation could be considered as an immunomodulatory agent for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE is a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized not only by skin, joint, neurological and renal symptoms, but also by inflammation of tissue linings in the body.

SLE is a T- and B-cell-dependent disease that causes an appearance of autoantibodies, 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.

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In a prospective clinical trial, Nathalie Costedoat-Chalumeau and colleagues set out to evaluate the safety and immunological effects of vitamin D supplementation in 20 SLE patients with low vitamin D levels. They observed these patients over six months and found that vitamin D was 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 authors found that no modification of existing immunosuppressant drugs was needed, nor any new drugs initiated.
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Although preliminary in nature, these findings suggest that vitamin D provides beneficial immunological effects for SLE, with a decrease in B memory cells and effector T cells, and an increase in Tregs. Costedoat-Chalumeau said "This should be confirmed in larger randomized controlled trials."

Costedoat-Chalumeau believes 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."

Source: Eurekalert
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