A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) is a hard lot. Patients typically get the diagnosis around age 30 after experiencing a series of neurological problems such as blurry vision, wobbly gait or a numb foot. From there, this neurodegenerative disease follows an unforgiving course.
Many people with MS start using some kind of mobility aid — cane, walker, scooter or wheelchair — by 45 or 50, and those with the most severe cases are typically bed-bound by 60. The medications that are currently available don't do much to slow the relentless march of the disease.
In search of a better option for MS patients, a team of UW-Madison biochemists has discovered a promising vitamin D-based treatment that can halt — and even reverse — the course of the disease in a mouse model of MS. The treatment involves giving mice that exhibit MS symptoms a single dose of calcitriol, the active hormone form of vitamin D, followed by ongoing vitamin D supplements through the diet. The protocol is described in a scientific article that was published online in August in the Journal of Neuroimmunology.
"All of the animals just got better and better, and the longer we watched them, the more neurological function they regained," says biochemistry professor Colleen Hayes, who led the study.