Untangling vitamin D activation may lead to new treatments for bone and immune disorders
Genetic material that regulates vitamin D activation in the kidneys has been identified, leading to hopes for better treatments of diseases that involve vitamin D including bone and immune disorders.
Vitamin D produced in the skin or obtained from diet is converted to its active form, calcitriol, in the kidneys. Calcitriol can also be produced in other parts of the body, including skin cells and immune cells. In these sites, calcitriol seems to play no role in regulation of minerals, and its production is induced by inflammation rather than by the hormones that control calcitriol in the kidneys.
Scientists have found it difficult to separately study the two types of calcitriol production, until now. A group of researchers has managed to produce mice with kidney-specific control of vitamin D activation.
“Through the creation of these mice, we can turn off endocrine regulation of [calcitriol] production exclusively in the kidney,” explains Mark Meyer, who led the new study. “By doing so, we can focus further on the inflammatory regulation of [calcitriol].”
The long-term goal is to understand the function of calcitriol in inflammatory diseases. For example, many skeletal disorders are treated with calcium and vitamin D supplements, but people who have mutations in regions involved in vitamin D regulation might actually be harmed by calcium supplementation. It is an exciting new area of research.
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