Vitamin A activates the body’s natural defenses against this disease.
Researchers at UCLA are investigating the role of nutrients in supporting the immune system in the fight against infections. According to them, vitamin A may be important in the fight against tuberculosis, writes The Times of India. Scientists have described the mechanism by which vitamin A and a specific gene help the immune system by lowering cholesterol levels in cells affected by tuberculosis.
This is an important aspect, because cholesterol is used by tuberculosis bacteria for nutrition. As part of the work, scientists compared the effect of vitamin A and vitamin D. Initially, experts thought that these two vitamins use the same mechanism to help the immune system. But when the vitamins were added to human blood cells infected with tuberculosis, only vitamin A could reduce the cholesterol levels in the cells.
Moreover, the actions of vitamin A directly depended on the expression of the NPC2 gene. Even if the infected cell was stimulated with vitamin A, but the expression of the gene was impaired, the cell could not cope with tuberculosis. This gene is usually associated with cholesterol transport, but not with the immune system.
It turns out that cells need vitamin A to start the process of protection, and the NPC2 gene to complete the task.
In the near future, scientists want to find out how the immune system takes retinol, an inactive form of vitamin A, and creates all-trans retinoic acid.
This acid is able to activate infected cells, setting them up against tuberculosis bacteria.