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Research Sheds Light on Vitamin D's Role in Immunity
Date:10/12/2011

noted that this is the first study to show the protein interferon activates cells to kill the TB bacteria. They revealed that T-cells release interferon, which activates infected cells (macrophages) to generate cathelicidin and other proteins to kill TB and ensure these proteins are delivered directly to the part of the cell where the bacteria lives.

"The role of interferon has been speculated for years in numerous studies, but previous research didn't take into account that sufficient vitamin D was needed to help [interferon-gamma] trigger an effective immune response," study author Dr. John Adams, a professor of orthopaedic surgery at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, pointed out in the news release. "Now we understand better how this chain reaction works."

"These current findings provide the first credible mechanistic explanation for how vitamin D critically contributes to acquired T-cell immunity that protects us from infections, particularly tuberculosis," added study senior investigator Dr. Robert Modlin, Klein Professor of Dermatology and Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, and chief of dermatology, at the David Geffen School of Medicine, said in the news release.

The study authors pointed out that most people with TB do not have symptoms, possibly due to successful immune response and sufficient levels of vitamin D to keep the infection from progressing into active disease.

They also noted that people with darker skin are more susceptible to TB, which could be partly due to the fact that the skin pigment melanin, which is more abundant in darker skin, reduces vitamin D production.

"At a time when drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are emerging, understanding how to enhance natural innate and acquired immunity through vitamin D may be very helpful," study co-author Barry Bloom, former dean of the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health, Distinguished Universi
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