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Vitamin A may help boost immune system to fight tuberculosis
Date:2/25/2014

Tuberculosis is a major global problem, affecting 2 billion people worldwide and causing an estimated 2 million deaths annually. Western countries are once again tackling the disease, with recent outbreaks in Los Angeles and London.

The rise of drug-resistant TB, called a "ticking time bomb" by the World Health Organization, and the high cost of fighting the disease highlight the need for new approaches to treatment.

In findings published in the March 1 issue of the Journal of Immunology, UCLA researchers investigating the role of nutrients in helping the immune system fight against major infections show that vitamin A may play an important role combating TB.

The UCLA team describes for the first time the mechanism by which vitamin A and a specific gene assist the immune system by reducing the level of cholesterol in cells infected with TB. This is important because cholesterol can be used by TB bacteria for nutrition and other needs, the researchers said.

"If we can reduce the amount of cholesterol in a cell infected with tuberculosis, we may be able to aid the immune system in better responding to the infection," said senior author Philip Liu, an assistant professor of medicine in the divisions of dermatology and orthopedic surgery at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and Orthopaedic Hospital Research Center. "Understanding how nutrients like vitamin A are utilized by our immune system to fight infections may provide new treatment approaches."

Although vitamin A circulates in the body in an inactive form known as retinol, it's the active form of the nutrient all-trans reinoic acid that is responsible for activating the immune system.

To investigate the role of this active form of vitamin A in immune defense, the UCLA team first compared its effects on cells to the effects of a similar nutrient, vitamin D, which the group had previously studied. The researchers thought the two
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Contact: Rachel Champeau
rchampeau@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2270
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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