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Title: Why devote an entire issue to the topic of how nutrients in one-carbon metabolism play roles in modern medicine?

item MASON, JOEL - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University

Submitted to: Molecular Aspects of Medicine
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/18/2016
Publication Date: 11/19/2016
Citation: Mason, J.B. 2016. Why devote an entire issue to the topic of how nutrients in one-carbon metabolism play roles in modern medicine?. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2016.11.006.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The vitamins that serve as essential co-factors in one-carbon metabolism-B2, B6, B9 (folate), and B12-have had a long and storied history in the field of medicine over the past two centuries, as have related intermediary metabolites such as methionine, homocysteine, betaine and choline. The megaloblastic anemias due to folate and B12 deficiencies first emerged into awareness with Sir Thomas Addison's description of pernicious anaemia in the 19th century, followed by the classic descriptions of the tropical anaemia of pregnancy described by Lucy Wills and her mentor in the 1920s. This was followed shortly by the recognition that these two anemias could be effectively treated by constituents contained in crude liver extracts and the yeast extract Marmite, respectively, and it is important to note that the former treatment resulted in the awarding of a Nobel Prize to Whipple, Minot and Murphy. Also during the first half of the 20th century, research in the german dye industry led to development of the first safe and effective antibiotics, the sulfonamides, whose antibacterial activities were later shown to be due to their inhibition of folate synthesis in bacteria, an advance that led to yet another Nobel Prize, to Gerhard Domagk. A different variety of harmful and rapidly proliferating cells than pathogenic bacteria-cancer cells-were also subsequently shown to be killed by anti-folate drugs such as methotrexate in the 1940s, opening up the modern era of cancer chemotherapy. By themselves, the abovementioned clinical applications of one-carbon metabolism safely secure this biochemical network as a foundationstone of modern medicine. However-and very fortunately-this field has not stagnated and, in fact, it has continued to grow in a robust fashion in the past few decades. Entirely new insights into the origins and treatment of disease, and in the maintenance of health, have continued to emerge as our understanding of one-carbon metabolism has grown, providing exciting new possibilities for clinical applications. This excitement was at a high pitch during the Summer FASEB Research Conference on Folic Acid, B12 and One-carbon Metabolism at Steamboat Springs, Colorado in August of 2016. Some, but by no means not all, of these emerging topics are covered in this issue of Molecular Aspects of Medicine. My only regret is that we did not have space for more reviews in this issue since there are so many more provocative advances emerging in this field that have direct relevance to the practice of medicine.