Using next generation sequencing of the patients' genetic information, the scientists identified two mutations in the same ABCD4 gene, in both patients. "We were also able to compensate for the genetic mutation by adding an intact ABCD4 protein to the patients' cells, thus allowing the vitamin to be properly integrated into the cells," explained Dr. Matthias Baumgartner, senior author of the study and a Professor of metabolic diseases at Zurich's University Children's Hospital.
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is essential for healthy functioning of the human nervous system and red blood cell synthesis. Unable to produce the vitamin itself, the human body has to obtain it from animal-based foods such as milk products, eggs, red meat, chicken, fish, and shellfish or vitamin supplements. Vitamin B12 is not found in vegetables.
"This discovery will lead to the early diagnosis of this serious genetic disorder and has given us new paths to explore treatment options. It also helps explain how vitamin B12 functions in the body, even for those without the disorder," said Dr. Rosenblatt who is the director of one of only two referral laboratories in the world for patients suspected of having this genetic inability to absorb vitamin B12. Dr. Rosenblatt points out that the study of patients with rare diseases is essential to the advancement of our knowledge of human biology.
|Contact: Julie Robert |
McGill University Health Centre