Copernicus Rediscovered?

What are the chances of digging up the remains of the man who revolutionized astronomy in your local church? Doubts have swirled around the 2005 claim of a Polish archaelogical team that they had unearthed skeletal remains of the 16th century astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) [1]. A team of forensic experts, including the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Warsaw Police, examined the claims by investigating the bones and teeth of a 60 to 70-year old man found in Frombork Cathedral, Poland.

The task at hand was daunting, as outlined in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) journal article [2]. Copernicus died in 1543, at age 70, and was interred at Frombork Cathedral, which unfortunately has a large percentage of unnamed tombs. Scientists used facial reconstruction and comparisons with paintings, including a self-portrait, to narrow down the list of skeletons to one individual. They struck gold with the discovery of a seeming match. There was a forehead scar and evidence of a broken nose between one cranium and a key portrait. The next step involved DNA analysis. Here, the team was aided by Swedish researchers who retrieved hairs from a book annotated by Copernicus (on exhibit at Museum Gustavianum in Uppsala, Sweden). Genetic detective work enabled them to match two of the hairs to DNA segments from a well-preserved cranial tooth, thereby adding to the notion that the remains of Copernicus had finally been discovered.

 

Interestingly, the authors point out that Copernicus may have had blue eyes, even though early portraits of the astronomer show him with dark eyes. The authors explain their findings by noting that the painting technique, chalcography, used during the lifetime of Copernicus, does not reflect actual color. Therefore it is possible that science has now corrected an artistic impression reproduced in the ensuing centuries of dark eye color by showing that Copernicus, in fact, had light-colored eyes. The editorial commentary accompanying the article was favorable, with doubts mainly centering on the number of hairs and books tested before zeroing in on the Calendarium, the book which contained the jackpot hairs; however, the debate over different interpretations of the data continues in academic corridors.

 

Clearing up the mystery of the astronomer’s remains may eventually put him to rest, but he will remain immortal in our minds. Like Darwin, he ushered in the modern scientific era with the heliocentric theory, i.e. placing the sun at the center of our solar system and relegating the Earth to the position of another planet orbiting the sun. His findings did not endear him to contemporary critics, e.g. Scaliger, who noted the name of Copernicus next to the recommendation that “certain writings should be expunged or their authors whipped” [3]. Nowadays scholars and laymen applaud his discoveries.

Maria (First appeared in the Norwalk Patch in 2012)

Happy Cinco de Mayo. The bars in Norwalk carry signs beckoning customers to partake in liquid celebrations of Mexican heritage and pride. It is sometimes difficult to remember amidst all the fun that Mexico has also become the symbolic source of all undocumented workers entering the USA. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has an ongoing exhibit containing “Freeloaders,” the provocative title of a photo by Lola Alvarez Bravo, that may be interpreted as a visual encapsulation of some views on migration here from Latin America.

If one gets lost in artistic interpretations or vigorous political debates about the issue, Nancy Capelle’s moving post about helps one to focus on the plight of individuals. Her post also reminded me of another individual who “fell through the cracks.” Call her Maria. Maria caught the train from Stamford to Southport every day. I remember her as plump, with a sad smile and eyes with dark circles that belied her otherwise youthful appearance. Maria was an “illegal” immigrant. Once upon a time she and many others, seduced by the prospect of a living wage, crossed the border into the USA. The escape from an abusive marriage and monies she could send back home to her family kept her going day after day.

We only saw each other occasionally on the train platform. Sometimes she would show me photos of her three children. She had been in this country for several years with no imminent prospects to return home. Her children in the meantime were growing up and her only contact with them came via the help of others. She was a cook at a local restaurant and would take leftovers with her in the evening for dinner. She had nothing, but felt compelled to share some of her leftover burritos. I declined, silently embarrassed that I had just wasted twenty dollars on lunch with friends.

A couple of months ago her restaurant, like so many others in the neighborhood, closed. I don’t see Maria anymore. Currently, the path from “illegal” immigration to citizenship resembles a labyrinth, especially for someone like her who does not speak English as a first language.

I will never forget her eyes. The regrets of having made that fateful decision to come here several years ago were unspoken, but one could see it in her eyes. For every “rags to riches” Latin immigrant story celebrated in the press, there are a thousand Marias.

The human spirit: Story of a lung cancer survivor

The Hollies may have serenaded “The Air that I Breathe”, but polluted air can be detrimental to the lungs.  According to Kurt Straif, head of The International Agency for Research on Cancer’s section that ranks carcinogens, the risk of cancer (depending on location and level of exposure) was found to be similar to that of breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke. Add air pollution to other known risk factors predisposing individuals to lung cancer, and one begins to understand some of the possible reasons why non-smokers such as Dana Reeve, activist and wife of Christopher Reeve, perished from this disease. Treatment strategies have been outlined by the American Lung Association and recent discoveries on ways to break through cancer’s shield have led to the development of promising immunotherapies for lung and other cancers.

However, these facts may provide little comfort to a patient diagnosed with an illness that accounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths (American Cancer Society). An initial shocked reaction may eventually be replaced by proactive participation in disease management, scouring the Internet for newsworthy clinical trial results, and cooperating with the FDA to create better treatments for lung cancer. Survivors may also seek social support online via sites such as cancer.im. On the other hand, they could channel their inner adventurers and ski to the North and South Poles.

Lung cancer survivor, Barbary Hillary, decided to defy the odds and undertook these arduous Arctic journeys in 2007 and 2011. Barbara’s preparations and trip to the North Pole were vividly recounted in a 2007 USA Today article. Successfully crossing the same regions as the polar adventurers, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton, placed the retired African-American woman in a league of her own. Her tenacity in the face of medical challenges and age can serve as an inspiration to everyone.

Nuclear relationships

Commuters from Connecticut to Cape Town have usually gained impromptu insights into different cultures by reading books written by brilliant wordsmiths. For example, the Russian writer, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, was masterful at translating everyday life in the Ukraine in a manner understood beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union. His work was also used as a literary device by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri, in her novel, The Namesake—a tale that focused on identity and the complexities of cultural assimilation into America.

Gogol’s childhood, filled with the Cossack traditions and rich folklore of his Ukrainian home, provided creative impetus for short stories that would form “the foundations of the great 19th-century tradition of Russian realism.” Using humor and a beekeeper as a narrator, Gogol introduced the reader to Ukrainian customs and folklore in Evenings on a Farm Near Dykanka. In another book,Diary of a Madman, the hero is an office drudge who ultimately ends up in a lunatic asylum. Such stories may also have resonated with the Indian-American author, Lahiri, in crafting a pivotal train scene in The Namesake.

However, the young woman on the train from Stellenbosch to Cape Town had no pretensions of seeking literary or cinematic fame by invoking Gogol’s name. She was far too caught up in her daydreams about a fellow commuter. If one could imagine a cross between the Hollywood actors, Joaquin Phoenix and Vin Diesel, the sensitive-looking soul with the biceps of a football player was her dream man. He usually sat across from her on the lengthy journey from South Africa’s wine heartland to the University of Cape Town. His nose was often buried in fictional books (mainly Gogol) or incomprehensible scientific texts. When she finally summoned the courage to talk to him, he told her that he was a physicist. The young woman, a humble secretary, was star-struck and tongue-tied at the same time. She did not wish to pester the young man with tales about her boring life where the only recent thrill was watching the formation of a new bee hive on the family farm. Besides, how could occasional intellectual spurts such as listening to the South African opera tenor,Gérard Korsten, compare with the sophistication of this smart man?

As it turned out, the pair shared a fascination for Korsten. The physicist analyzed the tenor’s performance as Canio in Ruggero Leoncavallo‘s Pagliacci and she told him about her love for Korsten’s role as a family patriarch in the long-running South African soap opera, Egoli: Place of Gold. Over time the physicist told her about his admiration for Sergey Korolyov (1907-1966, head Soviet rocket engineer and designer during the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s). She listened to his scientific tales and reciprocated with gossip stories she had read about famed South African heart surgeon, Christiaan Barnard, in the Afrikaans tabloids.

Finally he revealed the top-secret research he was conducting at a local nuclear power plant (Koeberg, 30 km north of Cape Town). In addition, he confirmed reports about negotiations with the South African government to supplement the country’s growing demand for electricity by building more nuclear power plants. He explained that Russia has about 10% of the world’s reasonably assured uranium resources and considerable expertise in the generation of nuclear power (employing 200,000 people in this industry). Furthermore, the export of nuclear power and expertise were major economic objectives. To him it seemed like a match made in heaven. While a decision was still being weighed by the South African government, the physicist was excited at the idea of having more nuclear power plants on the continent and elsewhere. He viewed nuclear power as a “clean,” energy source and a means to offset the interminable energy blackouts that had become the bane of South African consumers’ existence.

Unfortunately the young woman did not share his feelings. Koeberg had opened in 1984, two years before the disaster at the Ukrainian power plant, Chernobyl. Radioactive fallout had spread several thousand square miles, driving more than a quarter of a million people permanently from their homes and causing numerous deaths. Her pessimism increased after reading reports about a faltering cleanup following a subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan.

It would be up to the physicist to convince her that the Russian government had learned lessons from the disaster. He would wax lyrical about improved crisis-management practices, cost-effective and safer nuclear reactor designs (citing innovations by TerraPower as an example), and also mention the possibility of using different reactors in the future. Although real-world applications were still decades away, he felt reasonably confident that he could assuage her fears and change her mind.

The next morning the ardent suitor decided to hedge his bets by presenting her with a list of alternative, climate-friendly energy sources which he knew would be more suited to her beliefs. Armed with both plans of action, he boarded the train and mentally rehearsed his request to resolve their debate over dinner later that night. He suppressed his excitement by feigning indifference, looking down at his briefcase, before settling into his usual seat near the window. He looked up expecting to see her face. Her seat was empty.

 

Of Nehru and Norwalk

The sweltering heat can shorten anyone’s temper. Ask Mr. Singh (a fictional name). His temper tantrums when people dared park longer than fifteen minutes in front of his Norwalk store were legendary, and vagrants decided that they were better off rummaging through the garbage of the Chinese restaurant next door. His attitude towards customers veered from cloyingly sweet, if you were a curvaceous young girl, to patronizing, if you were a homeless person trying to buy batteries for a CD-player you found in the dumpster next door. Yet once upon a time he had been a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youngster fresh off the plane from India with his wife and young sons. America was the land of opportunity and, armed with stories of relatives who had struck it rich in Connecticut, he came searching for his dream. An Indian community would be waiting to welcome him and his family into their temples and homes.

The years passed in the blink of an eye and the vigor of youth faded. Mr. Singh invested in the stock market and paid the price. The tax man put a lien on his business and he had to figure out creative ways to pay for the college education of his sons. Mr. Singh kept going, in part because of his delusions.You see, dear reader, everyone else was always to blame for every calamity in his life. The fact that he did not fill out the proper paperwork to have a lottery ticket machine in his shop became the fault of the government. The fact that dear Mrs. Singh’s samoosas landed me in bed with a serious case of food poisoning was the fault of the dough he had purchased at Costco. For a second I found myself more annoyed at the fact that she had not made everything from scratch, before arguing with Mr. Singh about his irresponsibility.

However, Mr. Singh always managed to wiggle his ample girth out of tight corners. When his belligerent explanation that office workers who had purchased the same savory delicacies seemed just fine fell on deaf ears, he tried a different tactic. The heat outside was merciless and he swept away my defenses and a potential lawsuit with peace offerings of Haagen Dasz ice cream and the latest copy of the National Enquirer. Having honed in on my vices, Mr. Singh felt secure that he would not be losing a customer. I could not let him off that easily.

“So,” I interrupted sweetly (as he railed about the indiscretions of American stars discussed in theEnquirer),”Is it true that the first Indian prime minister (Jawaharlal Nehru), had been in love with the last British viceroy’s wife (Lady Edwina Mountbatten)?”

Mr. Singh was thunderstruck. He demanded to know if I had read it in the free copy of “that dirty rag” he had just handed me. No. My source was impeccable. I had googled the information and if anything appears on Google it has to be true. Mr. Singh was quick to set me straight. Nehru was revered in India and, according to Mr. Singh (who had it on good authority from an uncle who had been Nehru’s personal photographer), nothing happened. His opinion that revered men were obliged to have no flaws was not that far removed from our pre-Clinton (or was that pre-Kennedy?) view of charismatic leaders.

The conversation eventually drifted to more neutral terrain. One of his sons was getting married. The kid had been a straight A-student. Thanks to Mr. Singh’s sweat equity, or perhaps in spite of it, the younger Singh had graduated top of his class at Yale University and now held a prominent position at a local investment firm. Mr. Singh informed me that there would be two weddings. One would be held in India and then all the relatives would be shipped over here for a mega-festival that would last a couple of days. Mr. Singh had taken out a loan to foot the bill. I kept my opinion about a son allowing his parents to take on an added financial burden to myself. My ice cream was beginning to melt and there was no need to anger Mr. Singh again.

Summer means vacation time. So I did not see Mr. Singh for a few months. When I returned to Norwalk, I was surprised to see that Mr. Singh’s store had closed. I heard via the grapevine that he was broke and had decided to return to India with his wife. A part of me was sorry to see the old rascal leave and the other part felt happy. Hopefully he found that mythical retirement sanctuary that we all long for, aka the Marigold Hotel. Hopefully he will at long last feel at home.

The life that a child deserves to live

(First published in the Norwalk Patch)

Chance encounters in New York City got this author thinking about education and improving the lives of children.

We deserve to live a quiet life without anxiety and fear.

We deserve to know that we don’t need to come back to the shelters today, tomorrow, or next month.

We deserve to stop hearing voices of the missiles.

We deserve to live in our houses, not in the shelter nearby.

The words echoed by Israeli teenagers from the Eye2Israelproject reflect their perspectives on an endless conflict that has stymied leaders on both sides of the political and religious divide. However, this post is not about politics or religion. It is about meeting children in Union Square, New York City, and seeing the world through their eyes. It is about hope and idealism, in spite of being faced with adversity. Last year, I was privileged to meet the bright scientific and technological minds that will continue to cement the reputation of Israel as a technology powerhouse. A group of ninth- through twelfth-graders from the Israel Scientific and Technological School network showcased inventions ranging from a mobile application (to alert smartphone users about food allergens) to a prototype for a wearable sensor designed to aid blind people. The high-technology inventions and expertise on display at the Union Square exhibit and the enthusiasm with which students freely shared their knowledge, speak volumes about the results of investing in the education of children. According to the nation’s research and development service, Israel has 135 academically educated engineers and scientists per 10,000 population compared to 81 per 10,000 in the US. Companies such as Intel, IBM, Motorola, Applied Materials, BMC, Creo, Marvell, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, and Nestlé have research and development centers in Israel.

Where are the future scientists and engineers of the USA? They are undoubtedly being cultivated in charter schools, STEM programs and other nationwide educational efforts. While the experts debate whether US teenagers are lagging in science, technology, and mathematics versus the rest of the world, it is also important to pay attention to the idea that teachers “ought to think in terms of working with – and learning from – their counterparts in other countries so that children everywhere will become more proficient and enthusiastic learners.”

Sometimes it may be as easy as crossing to the other side of Union Square to spread infectious enthusiasm about science and technology. The children I met on separate occasion at the same location reflected the largest untapped human resource in this country. They also felt that they “deserved” something. Unlike the children from Israel, they did not live in the shadows of war. Their war was one waged against poverty and hopelessness. They asked for something that many other children take for granted: love.

We Deserve Love Too!, a youth-led campaign in New York City, attracted my attention with the stories of teenagers who fell through societal cracks and still held out hope of finding a home. One teenager described living in the home of adoptive parents for years before being returned to the foster care system. Thanks to finding loving parents, he was able to complete high school and was accepted at a local university. Imagine if he was there on the same day as the Israeli inventors and had been inspired by their presence. Would it have changed the course of his life or others like him? Maybe Union Square would at the very least have been place where children learn from another under the guidance of adults who truly invest and believe in their futures.

Black men

Excerpt from my book, Mist over peace: A prelude to MLK day in the USA

Shaka Zulu, son of Nandi and Senzangakona,

Empire-builder from the Tugela to the Pongola

Warrior king, like Caesar or Alexander the Great

Ruthless conqueror of tribes until Dingaan settled his fate.

King Mansa Musa of Mali

Guardian of North Africa’s commerce and educational quality

He established the world’s first university

A place where creative minds could thrive and express individuality.

Akhenaton, pharaoh and husband of Queen Nefertiti

A believer in love, brotherhood, truth, and divinity

Centuries before Darwin, Christ, and Muhammad spread evolution and monotheism

He taught the gospel of one God until his successors decreed a return to henotheism.

General Benjamin O. Davis Jr., buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery

The first black leader of Tuskegee Airmen contributing to the Allied victory

In the face of racism and hostility

He overcame hardships with courage, intelligence, and tenacity.

Thurgood Marshall, grandson of a slave

Blessed with a father who instilled appreciation for law into the young knave

Chief dismantler of the “separate but equal” doctrine in public education

The first African-American Supreme Court Justice should be mentioned with jubilation.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

The man we once knew as Cassius Clay and now Muhammad Ali

Vietnam war-protestor, legendary heavyweight

Parkinson’s sufferer and a fighting spirit to emulate

Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, unsung fathers and sons,

Just a few of the extraordinary men who toiled among us

In the middle of madness and sadness

You are reminders of perseverance and prowess.

The caregiver

First appeared in the Norwalk Patch:

Physical strength is measured by what we can carry; spiritual by what we can bear.

— Unknown

The caregiver pulled his car into the nursing home parking lot. Rhinestone Cowboy, the country song made famous by Glen Campbell, faded with the sound of the car engine. His reprieve from the day-to-day worries over an ailing father, an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer, was at an end. His brother had suggested the road trip. The weekend admiring fall foliage and reminiscing over the family had been a bittersweet event. The highlight of the trip had been a joint viewing of embroidered narratives by Holocaust survivor, Esther Krinitz, at a local museum. Her stitch-by-stitch tale of horrors encountered during World War II provided evidence of a sharp memory, unlike the jumbled thoughts of his father.

He had seen the warning physical signs marking the onset of his father’s disease and watching the progressive deterioration had taken a toll on his own well-being. He had needed coping tips and the support of a sibling. He felt rejuvenated, knowing that his cry for help after succumbing to caregiver burnout, had not fallen on deaf ears. He signed his name in the nursing home guest book, punched the door code for the Alzheimer’s wing and knocked on his father’s door.

The massage therapist let him into the room. His sister-in-law had suggested the therapist’s services as a birthday treat for his mute father. When he saw the light in the old man’s eyes, he knew that she had been right. His father had responded to the warmth of the therapist’s caring touch. His own gruff expression softened as he held his father’s hand. The meeting was brief, because there was nothing left to say anymore. However, he felt strangely at peace as he returned to his car and switched on the radio. Someone was interviewing former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’ Connor, on one of the stations. The interviewer gingerly enquired about her late husband, who had died of the disease in 2009, before shifting back to the more comfortable terrain of her illustrious career.

He reached his home and sorted through the pile of papers and magazines on the kitchen table. A Time magazine article about new biomarkers for detecting the memory-robbing illness in its earliest stages, caught his eye. Another piece of paper about Glen Campbell’s brave fight with Alzheimer’s disease fell to the floor. He would have to read that article another time. He first needed to figure out where to come up with the next month’s payment for his father’s nursing home stay. He balanced his checkbook and marked the calendar. Next week he would attend a caregivers’ support group meeting. The topic would be art and music therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. The purpose that an early-Alzheimer’s-disease sufferer found in Poetry, would also strengthen each member of the group. His courage returned because he could now rely on the support and understanding of other people.

On his blindness

The woman urgently needed a new pair of glasses for an upcoming meeting. So she was delighted to see an optical store on an otherwise desolate street in her neighborhood. A Russian-accented voice boomed dobroye utro (good morning) as she entered the store. For a moment she had second thoughts, wandering whether he would be able to understand her request. She was African and had a thick accent as well. Would they be caught in a conversational morass of misunderstandings? Luckily that was not the case. She was pleasantly surprised to discover how much she had in common with the store owner and they immediately established a rapport. After an impromptu lesson about the lenses needed to compensate for her high myopia, they perused his collection of designer frames, before engaging in a discussion about the visually impaired people in their respective families.

They simultaneously wandered if there were any medical breakthroughs that could help blind people. Being a curious person by nature, the woman paid close attention to the health news on television that night. She saw a snippet about an artificial retina. Although the implanted device was approved for a selected subgroup of patients with a rare eye disease, The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System was a possible indication of future technological innovations that could benefit the estimated 39 million blind people across the globe [1]. The woman flipped through the Google search pages on her iPad, eager to share a list of current inventions with the store owner. She clicked on a page describing another discovery that could benefit blind people. Israeli researcher, Dr. Amir Amedi, had developed a non-invasive device (a computer mounted on glasses, connected to stereo speakers) that enabled blind people to “see” using sound.

Next, she searched for inventions of potential benefit to people with impaired vision or chronic diseases. Since comprehensive eye examinations were a rarity for poor people in the neighborhood, she was delighted to discover information for a portable eye examination kit. Another website for a smartphone diagnostic tool proclaimed that “almost anyone, anywhere could conduct their own eye test, quickly and easily.” However, correcting impaired vision with approved, do-it-yourself eye tests and devices were only the first two items on her wish list.

Eyes are said to be the windows of the soul and can also signal the onset of ocular ailments or indicate poorly controlled chronic diseases. She was therefore happy to read about the development of a scanner that could pick up on some of these conditions by non-invasively visualizing the 3D-structure of key ocular regions.

One week later, the woman received a call from the store owner. The thick lenses of her new glasses fit perfectly into a designer frame. She responded with a Russian word he had taught her: spasiba (thank you). Later that evening, the store owner called his son to tell him about the grateful customer. The son smiled when he heard about the inventions that the customer had shared with his father. Maybe one day he would no longer need to touch a Braille version of John Milton’s “On his Blindness.” Maybe one day he would be able to regain his sight.

Reference

1. Mariotti, S.P. Global data on visual impairments. 2010 [cited 2013 September]; Available from: http://www.iapb.org/sites/iapb.org/files/GLOBALDATAFINALforweb.pdf.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

First appeared in the Norwalk Patch:

“Microbes maketh man”, the provocative byline on the cover of a 2012 (The) Economist issue, refers to the trillions of microbes (human microbiome) residing on and in our bodies and that contribute to our health and wellness. An infographic from the American Academy of Microbiology illustrates the point that “the microbiome helps us extract energy and nutrients from the food we eat, and crowds out or inhibits pathogens.” One of the nutrients that the body needs is Vitamin B12 ─ a class of chemically related cobalt-containing compounds produced by microbes and not found in plants. The physiological forms of B12 are important for growth and replication of all body cells and the functioning of the nervous system. Disruption of the microbiome can trigger a host of ailments, including diseases possibly caused or exacerbated by B12 malabsorption/deficiency.

While the details are still under investigation, it may be that microbes (at least in some cases) regulate the activities of human cells. Abnormal signaling as a result of a disturbed microbiome is associated with different illnesses, including inflammatory bowel disease, Clostridium difficile infections, obesity, diabetes, and pernicious anemia. The underlying cause of clinical symptoms such as neurological problems and gastrointestinal disturbances associated with pernicious anemia is a reduction in erythrocytes (red blood cells) or the oxygen-containing substance, hemoglobin. Impaired B12 uptake (due to the lack of intrinsic factor in the gastric mucosa) contributes to immature red blood cells or megaloblasts characteristic of the illness. Decreased levels of white blood cells (leukopenia) and platelets (thrombocytopenia) are also observed in the blood.

The adult form of pernicious anemia has typically been associated with people of Northern European descent. The incidence of pernicious anemia is also elevated in patients with other immune ailments, including Graves’ disease, myxedema (historically used to describe severe forms of hypothyroidism; also used to describe skin changes that can occur in hypothyroidism and some forms of hyperthyroidism), and thyroiditis. Moreover, an estimated 50% of the world’s population is infected with another etiologic agent, Helicobacter pylori. Infection with this bacterium increases with age and could contribute to one of the downstream risks associated with untreated pernicious anemia i.e., gastric cancers. Under B-vitamin-rich conditions, B12 (as well as B6 and B9) may help lower homocysteine levels. Conversely, elevated plasma homocysteine has been implicated as an important and independent risk factor for coronary artery disease and associated complications. Thus, B12 insufficiency/deficiency may be far more widespread and be a nutritional risk factor for a variety of chronic maladies affecting a graying global population.

Thanks to Nobel Laureate, George Richards Minot’s (working with William Murphy and George Whipple), seminal discovery of an effective liver-based treatment (liver is high in B12) in 1934, a once-fatal disease can now be managed with timely intervention. Treatment these days consists of intramuscular B12 injections or oral medications. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “once treated for a Vitamin B12 deficiency due to pernicious anemia or other irreversible severe problems with absorption, patients need to continue some form of cobalamin therapy for life.”