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Vitamin D, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease

It has now been more than 20 years since the vitamin D receptor was identified in cells of the immune system. The immune system has now been established as an important target of vitamin D. Vitamin D receptor knockout and vitamin D deficient mice have a surplus of effector T cells that have been implicated in the pathology of multiple sclerosis (MS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The active form of vitamin D directly and indirectly suppresses the function of these pathogenic T cells while inducing several regulatory T cells that suppress MS and IBD development. There is reason to believe that vitamin D could be an environmental factor that may play a role in the development of these immune mediated diseases in the clinic but at present there has not been a causal relationship established. Nonetheless, current evidence suggests that improving vitamin D status and/or using vitamin D receptor agonists may be useful in MS and IBD.