A team of researchers have demonstrated a direct link between a particular genetic variant and vitamin D which can determine an individual’s risk of developing MS.
The new evidence emerged from a study published in the journal PLoS Genetics which found that the most important gene implicated in susceptibility to MS, the variant gene DRB1 can be switched on by vitamin D in laboratory experiments.
The researchers claimed that a lack of this vitamin alters the DRB1 gene, a gene that has a direct role in the functioning of a healthy immune system.
Leading the study, George Ebers, Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford, suggested that a lack of vitamin D during pregnancy and in the early years of life could increase the risk of developing the condition later in life.
Chief Executive of the MS Trust, Pam Macfarlane, commented, ‘This is a interesting study which adds to the growing evidence of a link between vitamin D and the risk of developing MS. A number of studies over the years have also suggested this connection and hopefully these results will encourage further investigation.’
“Expression of the multiple sclerosis associated MHC Class II Allele HLA-DRB1*1501 is regulated by vitamin D.”
Ramagopalan SV, Maugeri NJ, Handunnetthi L et al.
PLoS Genet 2009; Genet 5(2) e1000369. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000369.
Access full article on PLoS Genetics.