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Kidney Int. 2011 Apr;79(7):708-14. doi: 10.1038/ki.2010.432. Epub 2010 Oct 20.

The dualistic role of vitamin D in vascular calcifications.

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Department of Oral Medicine, Infection and Immunity, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Vitamin D is a multifunctional hormone that can affect many essential biological functions, ranging from the immune regulation to mineral ion metabolism. A close association between altered activity of vitamin D and vascular calcification has been reported in various human diseases, including in patients with atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Vascular calcification is a progressive disorder and is a major determinant of morbidity and mortality of the affected patients. Experimental studies have shown that excessive vitamin D activities can induce vascular calcification, and such vascular pathology can be reversed by reducing vitamin D activities. The human relevance of these experimental studies is not clear, as vitamin D toxicity is relatively rare in the general population. Contrary to the relationship between vitamin D and vascular calcification, in experimental uremic models, low levels of vitamin D were shown to be associated with extensive vascular calcification, a phenomenon that is very similar to the vascular pathology seen in patients with CKD. The current treatment approach of providing vitamin D analogs to patients with CKD often poses a dilemma, as studies linked vitamin D treatment to subsequent vascular calcification. Recent genetic studies, however, have shown that vascular calcification can be prevented by reducing serum phosphate levels, even in the presence of extremely high serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and calcium levels. This article will briefly summarize the dual effects of vitamin D in vascular calcification and will provide evidence of vitamin D-dependent and -independent vascular calcification.

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