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Vitamin D Could Provide New Treatments for Asthma

Researchers see new way to reduce steroid therapy (May 20)

Scientists at King’s College London have discovered that vitamin D has the potential to significantly reduce the symptoms of asthma. The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, highlights vitamin D as a possible new treatment for the condition.

Interleukin-17A (IL-17A) is a natural protein that helps defend the body against infection, but it is known to exacerbate asthma and to reduce responsiveness to steroids when produced in larger amounts. The team examined the production of IL-17A and levels of the protein in cells from 18 steroid-resistant asthma patients and 10 patients who responded to steroids, as well as from a control group of 10 healthy participants.

The results showed that patients with asthma had much higher levels of IL-17A than had those without asthma. Patients with steroid-resistant asthma expressed the highest levels of the protein.

Further observation showed that while steroids were unable to lower the production of IL-17A in cells from patients with asthma, vitamin D significantly reduced the production of IL-17A in cells from all patients studied. The results therefore demonstrated that vitamin D could potentially provide an effective add-on treatment for asthma sufferers, reducing the amount of steroid-based medicines prescribed, according to the researchers.

Study leader Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz said: “These findings are very exciting as they show that vitamin D could one day be used not only to treat people with steroid-resistant asthma but also to reduce the doses of steroids in other asthma patients, reducing the risk of harmful side effects. The results are so positive that we are testing this in a clinical trial in steroid-resistant asthma patients to further research the possibilities of vitamin D as a potential treatment.”

Source: King’s College London; May 20, 2013.

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