New link found between MS treatment and vitamin D

(Medical Xpress) -- A new study by researchers at the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania (Menzies) suggests that one of the main treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) may also increase the amount of vitamin D patients receive from sun exposure.

More people suffer with per capita in Tasmania than in any other state in Australia. There is currently no cure, but treatments are available to ease some of the symptoms.

This observational study published in the prestigious journal Neurology found that patients taking one of the most common treatments for MS, interferon-beta, had higher levels than those not on this or those using other forms of treatment for MS.

Around 60 per cent of with the relapsing-remitting form of MS are treated with interferon-beta. It is derived from a naturally-occurring component of the and has been found to reduce the frequency of and other specific symptoms of MS.

Despite being a front-line treatment in MS, how interferon-beta actually works in MS is unclear, though it is thought to act by affecting the immune system.

The study used data from the MS Longitudinal Study, from 2002-2005, and this analysis used data from 178 persons with MS living in southern Tasmania.

Menzies researchers Dr. Niall Stewart and Dr. Steve Simpson, Jr. were co-first authors on the paper. Dr. Simpson says the findings suggest that part of the therapeutic effects of interferon-beta on relapse in MS may be through its effects on vitamin D, since vitamin D has the ability to reduce inflammatory pathways in the immune system.

“Not only did we find that persons taking interferon-beta had higher vitamin D levels than those not taking it, we also found that this increase in vitamin D was due to an enhancement of the association between sun and vitamin D, with persons on interferon-beta having nearly three-times as much vitamin D from similar amounts of to those not taking interferon-beta,” Dr. Simpson said.

“We have previously shown persons with MS with higher vitamin D levels had lower numbers of relapses. In this analysis, however, we found that vitamin D was only associated with reduced risk of relapse among those using interferon-beta.

“Interestingly, the reciprocal was also true, with interferon-beta only associated with reduced risk of relapse among those with higher levels of vitamin D,” Dr. Simpson said.

Senior author, Professor Bruce Taylor, says the new findings have the potential to markedly affect clinical practice in the treatment of MS, but cautions that more research is required.

“This study adds to the growing body of research into MS, but before we can apply these findings to MS treatment practice, clinical trials must be done to prove these associations. Menzies is planning to undertake such a trial in the future,” Professor Taylor said.

“This study does provide further support for persons with MS to periodically have their vitamin D measured, particularly in winter, and if they are deficient, to seek the advice of their physician as to whether supplementation is appropriate for them.”

The MS was funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council, the Trish Foundation and the University of Tasmania.

Related Stories

Gene variant may increase severity of MS

date Aug 02, 2010

A new study shows a gene variant may increase the severity of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms. The research will be published in the August 3, 2010, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neu ...

Study: MS drugs help, but come at high cost

date Jul 20, 2011

A new study examining the cost-effectiveness of drugs to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) in the United States finds that the health gains from these drugs come at a very high cost compared to basic therapy to control the symptoms ...

Recommended for you

Diet rich in methionine may promote memory loss

date 17 hours ago

Memory loss has recently been associated with excessive silencing of genes through a process called methylation. Researchers at the University of Louisville investigated the effects of a diet rich in methionine—an amino ...

Intelligent neuroprostheses mimic natural motor control

date Mar 30, 2015

Neuroscientists are taking inspiration from natural motor control to design new prosthetic devices that can better replace limb function. In new work, researchers have tested a range of brain-controlled devices ...

Researchers create 'Wikipedia' for neurons

date Mar 30, 2015

The decades worth of data that has been collected about the billions of neurons in the brain is astounding. To help scientists make sense of this "brain big data," researchers at Carnegie Mellon University ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.