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Genetic study shows direct link between vitamin D and MS susceptibility 'gene'
Date:2/5/2009

Ordinarily, the thymus will regulate the T cells and delete those that pose the greatest risk of attacking the body's own cells and proteins. However, the researchers believe that in people who carry the variant, a lack of vitamin D during early life might impair the ability of the thymus to delete these T cells, which then go on to attack the body, leading to a loss of myelin on the nerve fibres.

"Our study implies that taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and the early years may reduce the risk of a child developing MS in later life," says lead author Dr Sreeram Ramagopalan. "Vitamin D is a safe and relatively cheap supplement with substantial potential health benefits. There is accumulating evidence that it can reduce the risk of developing cancer and offer protection from other autoimmune diseases."

The research has been welcomed by Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the MS Society (UK).

"These remarkable results tie together leading theories about the environment, genes and MS but they are only part of the jigsaw," says Mr Gillespie. "This discovery opens up new avenues of MS research and future experiments will help put the pieces together."


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Contact: Catriona Silvey
press@plos.org
Public Library of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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