Vitamin D Crucial to Immune System

March 9. 2010

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It's been known vitamin D plays a crucial role in our immune system, but new research reveals why lacking the nutrient prevents the body's soldiers -- T cells -- from fighting off serious infections.

T cells are dormant immune cells until they are activated to detect and kill bacteria and viruses. A new study shows without vitamin D in the blood, activation would not take place.

According to Professor Carsten Geisler, of the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, when T cells are exposed to foreign pathogens, they expose a vitamin D receptor that searches for vitamin D. If the cells do not receive the nutrient, the cells will not activate.

"Scientists have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and the vitamin has also been implicated in diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, but what we didn't realize is how crucial vitamin D is for actually activating the immune system, which we know now," Geisler was quoted as saying.

Researchers say the findings could help tackle infectious diseases or epidemics whose effect is widespread. "They will be of particular use when developing new vaccines, which work precisely on the basis of both training our immune systems to react and suppressing the body's natural defenses in situations where this is important -- as is the case with organ transplants and autoimmune disease," Geisler stated.

Source: Nature Immunology, March 2010


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