Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that vitamin D may slow the progressive decline in the ability to breathe that can occur in people with asthma.
Calcitriol, a form of vitamin D synthesized within the body, reduced a proliferation of cells that is a part of process called airway remodeling, which occurs in many people with asthma, and leads to reduced lung function over time.
These PA researchers believe that by slowing airway "remodeling" they can prevent or forestall the irreversible decline in breathing that leaves many asthmatics even more vulnerable when they suffer an asthma attack.
“Calcitriol has recently earned prominence for its anti-inflammatory effects,” said Gautam Damera, Ph.D., who will present the research today at the American Thoracic Society’s 105th International Conference in San Diego. Their study is the first to reveal the potent role of how calcitriol inhibits proliferation of these "ASM" cells.
The experiments were conducted with cells from 12 subjects, and the researchers compared calcitriol with dexmethasone, a corticosteroid prescribed widely for the treatment of asthma. Although, dexmethasone is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, the researchers found that it had little effect in comparison to the vitamin D.
As part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Airway Biology Initiative, the researchers are planning a randomized control trial of this form of vitamin D in patients with severe asthma and expect to have data from the trial in about a year’s time.
With its anti-inflammatory qualities and its ability to inhibit smooth muscle proliferation, Dr. Damera said, calcitriol may become an important new therapy, used alone or in combination with already prescribed steroids, for treating steroid-resistant asthma.