Researchers use hair to detect vitamin D deficiency

Researchers at the United Arab Emirates University, UAEU, have found an innovative hair test to easily detect vitamin D in the human body.

According to a statement released by UAEU, blood tests have been used universally to determine vitamin D deficiency, but by analysing a small sample of hair from the crown of a human’s head, the amount of vitamin D can also be found, allowing for early detection of related diseases.

"Vitamin D deficiency is a huge problem in the UAE because there is a lot of sunshine but we are always indoors and people do not expose themselves to sunlight. UV B radiation changes sunlight to make vitamin D on our skin. It goes through our liver and kidneys to transform to other metabolites of vitamin D," said Dr. Iltaf Shah, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry, College of Science at the University.

The major disadvantage of vitamin D blood analysis is that it only provides short-term information. Due to fluctuations in the blood levels of the forms of metabolite found in the hair called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, it is also very difficult to estimate the actual seasonal variations in 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels for a longer period of time. Hair analysis, on the other hand, provides a wider window of detection, from a month to a year, and the full history of vitamin D absorption and homeostasis in our body.

Recent research shows that vitamin D deficiency is related to many diseases, such as obesity, rickets, osteomalacia, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. "If you have sufficient levels of vitamin D in your blood, you will have less chance of getting these diseases at a later stage in life," Dr. Shag said, adding that individuals are still exploring it.

"People are suffering from vitamin D deficiency; they do not know what to do and the current tests are not enough to give a clear picture. The deficiency of vitamin D could have serious consequences, mainly in pregnant women, lactating women, in the neonates and children that can develop rickets and osteomalacia," he said.

Hoping to file a patent in the near future, Dr. Shah said, "Using segmental analysis, vitamin D hair test can give a longer-term profile of vitamin D, from a month up to a year. In the blood, the cut-off limits for vitamin D deficiency are already set but because vitamin D hair test is a new test and we just developed it, we do not know the cut-off levels for vitamin D deficiency yet. This is the next step, where a very high cohort of hair samples will be tried and cut-off levels for vitamin D deficiency will be determined."

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