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Genetic variants associated with vitamin B12
Date:9/8/2008

Boston, MA - Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and their collaborators at Tufts University and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have identified a common genetic influence on B12 vitamin levels in the blood, suggesting a new way to approach the biological connections between an important biochemical variable and deficiency-related diseases.

"The news here is the discovery of a robust genetic predictor of vitamin B12 levels," said David Hunter, the Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention and director of the Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology at HSPH and senior author of the study. "This is an example of the way we're going to understand more about how levels of vitamins and other nutrients in the body are partially determined by genetic factors as well as by what we eat."

Other studies have found rare gene mutations with dramatic effects on people's ability to digest, absorb, and use vitamin B12. This paper found more common variations of a gene that has a much smaller effect by itself, but it may belong to an important biological pathway whose careful study may lead to clinically useful strategies and therapeutic intervention.

The researchers first found the gene, called FUT2, in a genome-wide scan of 1,658 women of European ancestry who participated in the Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS) project. They replicated the findings in another 1,059 women from the Nurses' Health Study.

"This provides a framework for further nutrigenomics studies and for exploring gene-diet interactions with cancer and other diseases," said Aditi Hazra, HSPH instructor and lead author of the study. The paper was published in the Sept. 7 advance online Nature Genetics.

Other studies have linked B12 deficiency with pernicious anemia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. Lower B12 levels have been associated with cognitive impairment. A key player
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Contact: Christina Roache
croache@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-6052
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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