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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Researchers: Vitamin D Deficiency Inhibits Lung Growth and Decreases Function

Published February 25, 2011 2:04 PM by Valerie Newitt

Previously linked to the severity of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in humans, vitamin D deficiency has now been shown to alter lung structure and function in young mice. According to a Newswise news release, the new study, conducted by researchers in Australia, offers the first concrete evidence linking vitamin D deficiency with deficits in lung function and altered lung structure.

The findings were published online ahead of the print edition of the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"The results of this study clearly demonstrate that vitamin D deficiency alters lung growth, resulting in lower lung volume and decrements in lung function," said Graeme Zosky, PhD, a research fellow at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Subiaco, Australia.

To conduct their study, the researchers used a mouse model of vitamin D deficiency and evaluated lung responses of two-week-old mice, comparing them to control mice without vitamin D deficiency to determine what, if any, effects the deficiency may have caused in the growth, structure or function of the lungs.

The researchers found that airway resistance was significantly higher while lung volume was significantly lower in vitamin D-deficient mice compared to control mice. Examinations of specific tissue responses revealed model mice had reduced lung function. Lungs were also smaller in model mice, which Dr. Zosky said could have been caused by the deficiencies of the mother or of the offspring.

Dr. Zosky said the study results have important implications for prevention of lung diseases in populations where vitamin D deficiencies are common. Future studies need to be conducted to determine whether vitamin D deficiency-induced alterations in lung growth increase the severity of obstructive lung disease and to identify susceptible populations whose use of dietary vitamin D supplementation could improve lung health outcomes, he added.

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