In a recent study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have found links between the deficiency of a vital vitamin that could cause permanent damage. The water-soluble folate can cause lasting damage to the genetic code stored within the cell. The surprising thing, however, is that the damage is found to be irreversible.
While most vitamin deficiencies can be cured with vitamin supplementation it has been found that the deficiency of Folate can have lasting effects. It can damage the DNA stored within the cells and once the cells undergo division after losing part of the chromosome the code can never be restored.
Folate is a water-soluble type of vitamin B. In the human body, it assists the transfer and synthesis of nucleic acids.
The research was published in the PNAS scientific journal and was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Copenhagen. The damage done to the genetic material can cause further abnormalities as well.
The lead researcher on the team Professor Ying Liu said, “The problem with folate deficiency is that it affects chromosome maintenance, and once a cell has lost a chromosome or part of it, it can never be fixed. That is, once cell division has gone wrong, you cannot fix it subsequently by consuming a lot of folic acids. Once the damage is done, it is irreversible.”
Mr. Liu’s efforts in the field are highly appreciated and he serves as an Associate Professor with the Center for Chromosome Stability at the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in the University of Copenhagen (UCPH).
He added, “…We need a guide telling us what the level of folate in the blood in the population, in general, should be. Once we have that knowledge, we can determine whether a person needs folic acid supplements to make sure the level in the blood is high enough for the cells to reproduce the DNA successfully.”
It is notable that the damage caused to the chromosomes can have varied effects on the individual. It has been previously established that folate deficiency can cause mental illness. Dementia, in the later phase of life, is also associated with the deficiency. Other serious problems associated with its deficiency included deformation in the nervous systems of the fetuses and anemia but a direct link could not be established.
Mr. Ying’s team studied the genome FRAXA which contains a particular genetic code. The team concluded that the abnormalities were most significant in cells with long genetic sequences. The deficiency caused abnormal cell divisions. In cases of long periods of deficiency, the entire X chromosome was found to be damaged.
“In the study, we demonstrate that folate deficiency leads to both higher levels of and more harmful chromosome abnormalities than previously thought. This causes the daughter cells to inherit the incorrect amount of DNA following cell division or, in some cases, to even lose an entire chromosome. This could explain why folate deficiency is associated with diseases like infertility, mental health disorders, and cancer,” Liu asserted.
Folate deficiencies can cause permanent damage to the body and with the help of the researchers, the importance has been further highlighted.
The research team is still digging deep to investigate the real extent of damage caused to the genome. FRAXA is just one part of the genome, it is yet to be seen if folate deficiency could cause damage to other parts of the genome.