Wednesday, April 01, 2009

it's in the blood: the story of vitamin k

From the Montreal Gazette:
The chickens were hemorrhaging but Henrik Dam, a young biochemist at the University of Copenhagen couldn't figure out why.

The year was 1929 and Dam was investigating the metabolism of cholesterol in chickens. Eggs contained cholesterol but where was it coming from? The birds' diet?

To check this out, Dam extracted the cholesterol from the chicken feed and saw they still produced eggs with cholesterol. Obviously the birds were synthesizing the substance from other dietary components. But they were also bleeding in an unusual fashion. Adding cholesterol back to the chicks' diet didn't solve the problem. It therefore seemed that the cholesterol extraction removed some other substance of importance from the feed.

Dam eventually found that a second fat-soluble compound had indeed been extracted and it was its absence from the birds' diet that prevented blood from clotting. He called it the coagulation vitamin, or in German, Koagulationsvitamin. We now know it as vitamin K. ...more

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