Research Highlight

How our immunity is linked to vitamin D

doi:10.1038/nindia.2014.92 Published online 7 July 2014

At an optimum level of vitamin-D, our immune system can efficiently maintain a dynamic steady state, according to new research1. This state of immunity is different from what is observed when the system has a deficeincy or total lack of vitamin-D .

Autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, rheumatic arthritis and uvitis have become prevalent in modern times. The standard medical treatment is with immunosuppressants such as methotrexate or synthetic glucocorticoids, which could be harmful in the long term or in higher doses. 

The researchers proposed a chemical network theory that addresses the quantitative role of vitamin-D in immunity. The theory was based on a coarse-grained model at a cellular level. They found that in the presence of optimum level of vitamin-D, the immune system can efficiently maintain a dynamic steady state which is distinct from that observed in the absence/low level of vitamin-D.

The researchers say the immune response thus evolves to be more robust as it is capable of switching from weak to strong and vice versa. This allows adequate immune response to a wide range of pathogenic stimulation. The study reveals that extremely low levels of vitamin-D could lead to increased risk of strong autoimmune responses (as regulation becomes weak). Extremely high levels provide too tolerant a response, which could increase the risk of tumors and cancerous cell growth and various allergic responses. 

The researchers say these novel effects of vitamin-D over adaptive regulation provide ammunition to conquer the adverse or beneficial effects of vitamin-D or any steroid analogue.


1. Roy, S. et al. A stochastic chemical dynamic approach to correlate autoimmunity and optimal vitamin-D range. PLoS ONE 9, e100635 (2014) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100635