Exploring the role of vitamin D in the onset of MS

Professor Robyn Lucas

Telethon Kids Institute and University of WA, WA

| Causes and Prevention | Epidemiology | Genetics | Project | 2015 | Investigator Led Research |


Many research studies from around the world have shown that people with MS, or at high risk of developing MS, have lower vitamin D levels than their healthy peers. In reality, we do not measure vitamin D levels, or the active part of vitamin D in the blood – we measure an intermediate chemical because there is more of it, it is easier to measure, and the levels fluctuate less rapidly than the active form of vitamin D. In the Ausimmune Study, Professor Lucas and her team showed that people with a first episode of demyelination that may progress to MS had lower levels of this intermediate chemical than healthy people of the same age and sex. But although they found an effect, it was not very strong. New assays for vitamin D are now available that allow us to measure the active form, other forms of vitamin D, and the freely circulating vitamin D.

Professor Lucas’ project will compare the levels of the different forms of vitamin D in the blood. The results will provide new insights into the role of vitamin D in the risk of MS, and possibly guide the form of vitamin D that may be of greatest benefit when provided as a supplement to people at high risk of MS, or lead to development of vitamin D-related compounds in the optimal form, to lower the risk of developing MS.

Progress to Date

This project set out to compare several different chemicals in the vitamin D pathway to determine which are most strongly associated with MS risk. In this one year project, Professor Lucas and colleagues have undertaken to analyse the vitamin D chemicals in 225 people with a first demyelinating event, and 225 people without any neurological disorder, who are part of the Ausimmune study. Analyses are underway to determine the levels of each of the different vitamin D chemicals, and identify which are most strongly associated with MS risk. The researchers anticipate these analyses will be finished later in 2016 and publications will follow.

Updated: 23 March 2016

Updated: 06 January, 2015



Grant Awarded

  •  Project Grant

Total Funding

  • $180,000


  • 1 year over 2015

Funding Partner

  • MS Society of WA
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Exploring the role of vitamin D in the onset of MS