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Winter 2014

Exploiting Mother Nature

Date: February 1, 2014

In mice with a rodent form of multiple sclerosis, vitamin D appears to block damage-causing immune cells from migrating to the central nervous system, offering a potential explanation for why the so-called “sunshine vitamin” may prevent or ease symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease, according to a Hopkins study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 9.

The quest to understand the role of the nutrient began with the observation that the disease is more prevalent in regions of the world farthest from the equator where there is less sunshine, the main natural source of vitamin D.

While a clinical trial testing vitamin D supplements in MS patients is underway at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, most of the evidence of its efficacy currently comes from animal studies. “With this research, we learned vitamin D might be working not by altering the function of damaging immune cells but by preventing their journey into the brain,” says study leader Anne R. Gocke.  Stephanie Desmon