Vitamin D 'Triggers and Arms' the Immune System

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The so-called
sunshine vitamin, which can be obtained from food or manufactured
by human skin exposed to the sun, plays a key role in boosting the
immune system, researchers believe.

In particular
it triggers and arms the body’s T cells, the cells in the body that
seek out and destroy any invading bacteria and viruses.

Scientists
at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that Vitamin D is
crucial to activating our immune defences and that without sufficient
intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system –
T cells – will not be able to react to and fight off serious
infections in the body.

For T cells
to detect and kill foreign pathogens such as clumps of bacteria
or viruses, the cells must first be ‘triggered’ into action
and "transform" from inactive and harmless immune cells
into killer cells that are primed to seek out and destroy all traces
of invaders.

The researchers
found that the T cells rely on vitamin D in order activate and they
would remain dormant, ‘naïve’ to the possibility
of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood.

Professor Carsten
Geisler from the Department of International Health, Immunology
and Microbiology, said: "When a T cell is exposed to a foreign
pathogen, it extends a signalling device or ‘antenna’
known as a vitamin D receptor, with which it searches for vitamin
D.

"This
means that the T cell must have vitamin D or activation of the cell
will cease. If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood,
they won’t even begin to mobilise. ”

The discovery,
the scientists believe, provides much needed information about the
immune system and will help them regulate the immune response.

This is important
not only in fighting disease but also in dealing with anti-immune
reactions of the body and the rejection of transplanted organs.

Read
the rest of the article

March
15, 2010

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