Genetic polymorphisms related to vitamin D and the therapeutic potential of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which are responsible for most vitamin D functions, are expressed on various immune cells. Vitamin D is considered to be a potent immunomodulator. A variety of cells in the central nervous system (CNS) also express VDRs; thus, vitamin D may play a role in the regulation of neurodegeneration and repair processes within the CNS. Considered together with epidemiological studies, low vitamin D status is reckoned to be one of the risk factors for multiple sclerosis (MS). Further, vitamin D is considered to be a possible treatment for MS. However, previous clinical trials with small cohorts have not demonstrated significant effects of vitamin D in MS. Current ongoing clinical trials with large cohorts could provide answers with respect to the clinical effects of vitamin D in MS. However, genetic studies have suggested that genes associated with vitamin D, including VDRs, are susceptible genes for MS. Vitamin D needs to be considered from the perspective of the interaction between vitamin-D-related genetic factors and environmental factors affecting vitamin D levels.