Below is a paper that challenges my comprehension of biology. Unbelievably, scientists have identified at least five genes that code for DNA repair proteins, whose only job is to fix your DNA when it is broken. Professor James Fleet of Purdue University and his colleagues authored an excellent detailed review of how vitamin D helps prevent cancer and he almost offhandedly mentioned DNA repair as one of vitamin D’s mechanisms of action in cancer. Remember, vitamin D has as many mechanisms of action as genes it regulates.
What amazed me was the first full paragraph on page 66 of Professor Fleet’s review, which starts by saying,
“There is some evidence that (vitamin D) regulates genes for proteins that protect the genome.”
He ends the paragraph by saying,
“Taken together, it is possible that (vitamin D) directly regulates the expression of a variety of genes whose protein products are involved in DNA damage repair . . .”
Then I emailed as many geneticists and vitamin D experts as I know and none of them knew much about it. Then, I discovered that a separate journal is devoted to DNA repair, appropriately called “DNA Repair.” When I searched that entire journal for vitamin D, I got 11 hits, none of which has to do with vitamin D’s role in repairing the genome. I don’t know why I am so amazed at this, perhaps it is my ignorance of genetics. However, I have some questions that the experts cannot answer:
- How many DNA repair genes does vitamin D upregulate?
- Do the proteins they upregulate all have different mechanism of action in repairing DNA?
- When activated vitamin D stimulates these DNA repair genes, is the upregulation profound or only minimal?
- Do these DNA repair proteins repair small inherited mutations or only the ongoing DNA damage we suffer from living in the solar system?
- What happens if you give pharmacological doses of vitamin D to people suffering from a single gene autosomal recessive illness, like cystic fibrosis?
As far as I can tell, no one knows the answers to these questions. While we wait, if you know anyone with a single gene genetic disorder, like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia, why not get their vitamin D up to high normal. No risk is involved and who knows if improvement will occur. It is simple (albeit somewhat fantastic) logic.