Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may have discovered a new novel approach to treating multiple sclerosis with vitamin D in a new series of animal model studies.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating disease that causes the immune system to attack the protective coating on the brain’s nerve cells. Symptoms include blurry vision, difficulties in mental function, and a loss of mobility. As the disease progresses with age, those diagnosed can be bound to their bed by 60 years old or even earlier.
MS is on the rise in the United States, with roughly 400,000 current cases and 200 more being diagnosed per week. Currently, there are no highly effective drugs to combat MS.
Professor Colleen Hayes and her team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have begun studying vitamin D-based treatment methods on mice with MS, using a variety of vitamin D treatments.
They began by administering a single dose of calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D. They observed a nine day remission in 92% of the mice tested. Whereas when they tested traditional MS drugs in these mice, these treatments led to only a six day remission in 58% of mice.
After these results, the researchers began administering even more doses of calcitriol. However, this proved to be too much and the mice got high blood calcium.
So Hayes turned to other approaches. She eventually came upon giving only one dose of calcitriol, followed by daily vitamin D supplementation.
This treatment, according to Hayes, was a, “runaway success, one hundred percent of mice responded.”
However, since they tested these treatments on mice rather than humans, it can’t yet be proven to be effective in humans. Hayes suggests the next step in research is to test various vitamin D treatment methods in humans in a clinical trial.
What does Hayes hope to accomplish? She says she hopes that, “one day doctors will be able to say, ‘We’re going to give you an oral calcitriol dose and ramp up the vitamin D in your diet…you’re just going to have this one neurological episode and that will be the end of it.’”
Miller, N. Mouse Studies Reveal Promising Vitamin D-Based Treatment for MS. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013.