Epidemiological evidence indicates a significant association between vitamin D deficiency and an increased incidence of autoimmune diseases. The presence of vitamin D receptors (VDRs) in the cells of the immune system and the fact that several of these cells produce the vitamin D hormone suggested that vitamin D could have immunoregulatory properties, and now potent immunomodulatory activities on dendritic cells, Th1 and Th17 cells, as well as B cells have been confirmed. Serum levels of vitamin D have been found to be significantly lower in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, undifferentiated connective tissue disease, and type-1 diabetes mellitus than in the healthy population. In addition, it was also found that lower levels of vitamin D were associated with higher disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis. Promising clinical results together with evidence for the regulation of multiple immunomodulatory mechanisms by VDR agonists represent a sound basis for further exploration of their potential in the treatment of rheumatic autoimmune disorders.
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