The origin of folic acid’s role in Red Blood cell formation is rooted in the rich soil of scientific discovery. Starting with a simple observation of anemia in those with Folic Acid deficiency, scientists followed the trail of clues to uncover it’s essential role in keeping our red blood cells healthy and robust. It’s a tale of discovery that spans decades and continents, and has changed the way we understand nutrition and health.
If you think about the most crucial things for a healthy body, you might think of food, water, or sleep. But there’s another, often overlooked, key component- folic acid.Without which our bodies would not function properly.
Firstly identified in the 1930s, when researchers discovered that a deficiency in diet led to anemia. They named it ‘folic acid’ due to its foliage- green leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce and kale.
Later, scientists learned that folic acid is also found in other foods like citric fruits, beans and whole grains. Nowadays, it’s widely known that folic acid is essential for a healthy body. It’s added to many fortified foods, and it’s also available as a dietary supplement.
Folic acid is the hidden hero, the unsung saviour, the often overlooked but crucial factor in the intricate process of red blood cell formation. Without folic acid, the intricate dance of hematopoiesis – the formation of blood cells would be missing a vital step.
Speaking further on this machinery of blood cell production turning smoothly, ensuring that our bodies have a steady supply of these precious cells. Let’s brood over its importance in red blood cell formation
- Essential for DNA replication
Folic acid playing a vital role in formation of Red blood cells serves as a ‘railcar’ of sorts, carrying the vital cargo of methyl groups to the sites of DNA replication. Without this essential delivery, the molecular machinery of DNA replication can’t proceed and production of red blood cells is halted. Folic acid is the essential ingredient that keeps the process of DNA replication on track, ensuring the ongoing production of new red blood cells.
- Vital for synthesis of purines and pyrimidines
It’s hard to overstate the importance of folic acid in the synthesis of purines and pyrimidines – the very building blocks of DNA and RNA. Without folic acid, these critical components would be absent, like a house without bricks. Without the ‘bricks’ of purines and pyrimidines, the ‘foundation’ of DNA and RNA cannot be built, and the entire structure of red blood cell formation collapses. Folic acid is the crucial bricklayer that ensures the building blocks are present, laying the foundation for healthy red blood cells.
- Shields against homocysteine
A well known guardian against homocysteine accumulation helps to lower homocysteine levels by acting as a cofactor for enzymes that convert homocysteine into methionine. This process is called ‘methylation’. Methionine is an amino acid that’s essential for the production of proteins and other molecules in the body. Without enough folic acid, homocysteine can build up in the blood and cause damage to the cells. So, by acting as a cofactor for enzymes that converts homocysteine into methionine, folic acid prevents the harmful effects of homocysteine.
- Ignites vitamin B12
Folic acid and vitamin B12 works together in a cycle called the ‘methionine cycle’. Folic acid is highly required as a chemical catalyst for the conversion of vitamin B12 into its active form. In this cycle, folic acid converts vitamin B12 into its active form, and then the active form of vitamin B12 converts homocysteine into methionine. The cycle repeats over and over again, creating a chain reaction that is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. Without either folic acid or vitamin B12, the cycle cannot occur and red blood cell formation is disrupted.
- Synthesis of SAMe
Folic acid is a cofactor for the enzyme that synthesizes SAMe, or S-adenosyl methionine. This enzyme, called methionine adenosyltransferase, takes methionine (derived from homocysteine) and ATP (an energy molecule), and converts them into SAMe. SAMe is an important molecule that is involved in the methylation of DNA and other cellular processes. Without folic acid, this reaction cannot occur and SAMe cannot be produced, which would disrupt red blood cell formation.
Wonderful Adegoke is a 200 level student from department of Medical Laboratory Science at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS). He’s a member of Vanguard Press Board, you can reach him via [email protected].
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