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SEVERE EXPERIMENTAL FOLATE DEFICIENCY
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Part A - SpringerPlus 3/1/442
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Part B - SpringerPlus 3/1/441
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Severe experimental folate deficiency in a human subject - a longitudinal study of biochemical and haematological responses as megaloblastic anaemia develops
http://www.springerplus.com/content/3/1/442

Abstract

Background

The currently accepted theory, that the human liver store of folate is limited to about four months, is based on the findings of Victor Herbert and others of the era before folate fortification of food. A recent model, developed by Lin et al., predicts far greater liver folate storage capacity than reported by Herbert. The conflict between Herbert’s and Lin’s models needs to be resolved experimentally, however current research is restricted because ethical considerations prevent such risky experimentation on patients or healthy human volunteers. The objective was to provide a detailed record of the biochemical and haematological responses to the development of severe experimental folate deficiency in an initially replete human subject.

Methods

This 58 year old male severely depleted himself of folate, using a folate-deficient diet, until overt megaloblastic anaemia developed. The biochemical and haematological responses were monitored by routine blood tests. Daily intake of dietary supplements prevented deficiencies of other relevant nutrients.

Results

The rate of change of all analytes was significantly slower, and the delay before any change for several analytes was significantly longer, than reported for previous experiments. The time before reporting of abnormal biochemical and haematological results was therefore very significantly longer than reported by Herbert, but was consistent with the recent model of Lin et al. Serum folate and red-cell folate became abnormally low after 219 and 413 days respectively. Macrocytic anaemia was produced after 469 days, and megaloblastic anaemia was confirmed by bone marrow biopsy on day 575. Folate starvation ceased on day 586, and recovery was complete on day 772.

Conclusions

The currently accepted four month time scale for development of megaloblastic anaemia from folate deficiency, based on the early work of Herbert and others, is not consistent with the results from this study. The > 300 day liver folate storage time, predicted by the model of Lin et al., is supported by this experiment. Self-experimentation has produced a detailed record of the biochemical and haematological responses to severe experimental folate deficiency, whereas using patients or healthy volunteers as subjects would be unethical.

Keywords

Experimental folate deficiency; Megaloblastic anaemia; Red-cell folate; Liver folate; Folate kinetics and metabolism; Folate model; Folate immunoassays; Immunoassay errors; Self- experimentation

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