wiscBiochemists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have reportedly discovered a vitamin D-based treatment that may hold promise in halting and reversing the course of multiple sclerosis (MS) in a mouse model of the disease.

Researchers note that during the treatment, mice that exhibit MS symptoms are administered a single dose of calcitriol, followed by ongoing vitamin D supplements through diet.

The study and its results appear online in the Journal of Neuroimmunology.

Colleen Hayes, PhD, study leader and biochemistry professor, states that all the animals continued to improve during the treatment, “and the longer we watched them, the more neurological function they regained,” Hayes says.

The university notes in a recent news release that Hayes’ team compared a variety of vitamin-D based treatments to standard MS drugs. In each case, vitamin D-based treatments eclipsed these treatments, researchers say. Mice that received the vitamin D-based treatments reportedly exhibited fewer physical symptoms and cellular signs of the disease.

The release states that the team first compared the effectiveness of a single dose of calcitriol to a comparable dose of glucocorticoid. The results indicate that calcitriol induced a 9-day remission in 92% of mice on average, compared to a 6-day remission in 58% of mice treated with glucocorticoid. The team then tried a weekly dose of calcitriol. The results suggest a weekly dose reversed the disease and sustained remission indefinitely, according to the news release.

Hayes acknowledges that to counter calcitriol’s strong side effects, she tried administering a single dose of calcitriol followed by ongoing vitamin D supplements in the diet. “One hundred percent of mice responded,” she says.

The release notes that while Hayes has voiced excitement regarding the research’s implications for MS patients, she emphasizes that the results are based upon a mouse model of the disease. Additionally, rodents are genetically homogeneous, while humans are genetically diverse. It is not certain that the researchers will be able to translate the discovery to humans, Hayes says, however, “the chances are good because we have such a broad foundation of data showing protective effects of vitamin D in humans,” Hayes states.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison