Study reveals mechanism that vitamin D reduces inflammation caused by immune cells

Scientists have recently gained insight into how vitamin D functions to reduce inflammation caused by immune cells. These findings might be relevant to the responses during severe COVID-19. In a study jointly published by Purdue University and the National Institutes of Health scientists do just this.

Majid Kazemian was an assistant professor in Computer Science and Biochemistry at Purdue University. He was also the co-author of this study that was highly collaborative with Dr. Behdad Afzali (chief of the Immunoregulation Section of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases).

Our research has revealed an underlying mechanism by which vitamin D reduces inflammation caused T cells. These cells are crucial to the immune system and are a part of the immune response against COVID-19. Further research, particularly clinical trials and testing in patients, are necessary before this could be used as a treatment option. We do not recommend that you purchase vitamin D supplements from the pharmacy. To combat or prevent COVID infections, it’s not recommended to consume more vitamin D than the recommended daily intake.

Majid Kazemian Assistant Professor, Departments of Computer Science and Biochemistry, Purdue University

Research has previously demonstrated that vitamin D can decrease inflammation caused by T cells. This is a characteristic of severe cases of COVID-19. Understanding the mechanism of a drug is as crucial as knowing how it functions. This is both to maximize benefits and limit harm (such as stopping people from eating dewormers from livestock or injecting household cleaners into their veins) and also to pave the way for future treatments.

Scientists who are able to understand the mechanism behind vitamin D’s action to fight inflammation will be able develop new, more efficient drugs.

Kazemian and his team began by studying the effects of viruses on lung cells in the previous study. They discovered that viruses trigger a biochemical pathway known as the immune complement, and they began looking for ways to stop this pathway and improve the inflammation.

The team examined the individual lung cells of eight COVID patients. This was made possible due to Kazemian’s expertise in gene sequencing and data mining. They found that in lung cells of patients suffering from COVID it was evident that a portion of the immune system was in overdrive, causing lung inflammation to worsen.

“In normal infections Th1 cells, which are a subset of T cells, go through pro-inflammatory phases,” Kazemian said. “The pro-inflammatory phase clears the infection, but then the system is shut down and goes to the anti-inflammatory phase. Vitamin D speeds up the transition from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory phases of the T cells. Although we don’t know whether it’s true, it’s possible that the vitamin could help those suffering from severe inflammation caused by Th1 cells.

COVID-19 patients have an inflammatory pro-phase that isn’t shut off in Th1 cells. This could be due to they did not have enough vitamin D or that their response to vitamin D was atypical. Researchers suggest that people suffering from COVID-19 could be able recover from their condition by adding vitamin D to their current treatments, in the form a highly concentrated intravenous compound. However they haven’t tested this hypothesis.

Kazemian stated that “we found that vitamin D – a special version of it, and not the one you can buy at the drugstore – is able to decrease inflammation inside the test tube, and that we figured out why that is.” However, it’s important to understand that we didn’t conduct a clinical trial and the results of our tests in the test tube have to be evaluated in clinical trials in real patients.”

Journal reference:

Chauss, D., and Chauss, D., and. (2021). Autocrine vitamin D signaling inhibits pro-inflammatory pathways in the T H1 cell. Nature Immunology.

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Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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