Researchers from the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, identified that the ‘vitamin D receptor’ protein pairs with an existing protein, called the RXR gamma receptor, already known to be involved in the repair of myelin, the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres.
By adding vitamin D to brain stem cells where the proteins were present, they found the production rate of oligodendrocytes (myelin making cells) increased by 80%. When they blocked the vitamin D receptor to stop it from working, the RXR gamma protein alone was unable to stimulate the production of oligodendrocytes.
In MS, the body’s own immune system attacks and damages myelin, causing disruption to messages sent around the brain and spinal cord; symptoms are unpredictable and include problems with mobility and balance, pain, and severe fatigue. The body has a natural ability to repair myelin, but with age this becomes less effective.