Thursday, June 23, 2022

Discovery of vitamin B9

Folic acid (vitamin B9) is important in a number of human metabolic pathways as well as being needed for nucleic acid synthesis, growth and the healthy development of a foetus. Folate and its role in human biochemical functioning was first identified by researcher Lucy Wills in 1931.

Wills was born in 1888, near Birmingham England, and in 1911 became one of the first women in the country to get degrees in botany and geology from Cambridge University.

In 1930, she was working as medical research scientists in India having been especially interested in the problem of severe anemia in pregnant poor textile workers. She became aware that poor female textile workers in India were suffering in large numbers from anemia.

Wills demonstrated amazing accuracy and insistence in her investigation excluding the infectious and parasitic nature of anemia and having come to the conclusion that it was linked to bad monotonous nutrition.

In 1931, her studies in rats suggested two things seemed to help: liver supplements and a spread called Marmite. It’s made from brewer’s yeast and it’s especially rich in B vitamins. Unknown substances possessing antianemic action together with improving the pregnancy outcomes at first was designated as “the Wills Factor”.

It wasn't until late in the 1930s that folates (compounds with the same vitamin activity including naturally occurring folates and folic acid) were discovered to be the active agent in the cure of anemia.

Over time, other names were applied for this essential substance—vitamin M (“necessary for normal hemopoiesis in monkey”), vitamin Bc (“required for chicken growth”), Lactobacillus casei growth factor (“supporting Lactobacillus proliferation”), and vitamin B9.

It was first isolated via extraction from spinach leaves by Herschel K. Mitchell, Esmond E. Snell, and Roger J. Williams in 1941. (“folic” originates from Latin “folium” translating as “a leaf”).

Bob Stokstad isolated the pure crystalline form in 1943, and was able to determine its chemical structure while working at the Lederle Laboratories of the American Cyanamid Company. The cycle of industrial synthesis of folic acid was developed in 1945.
Discovery of vitamin B9

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