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George Minot, William Murphy, and George Whipple find that liver and liver extracts are a cure for pernicious anemia, a precursor to the discovery of vitamin B12

Who:George Minot, William Murphy, George Whipple
When: 1920
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Where: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A

In 1914 George Whipple conducted experiments on the nature of the liver and its role in the body. As such he found that the liver had an incredible capacity to regenerate itself. His work eventually carried on the to study of anemia. Whipple worked with anemic dogs and tested different foods to see which would cause the dogs to recover the fastest. In the end, he concluded that liver cured the dogs the soonest.1

Taking a cue from this discovery two researchers, George Minot and William Murphy, set out to try isolate the substance in liver that caused the fast recovery. They failed to isolate the substance, but did manage to prove that liver, and liver extracts, cured pernicious anemia. For this work, they were awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize in Medicine.2,3

Pernicious anemia has a wide range of symptoms that are all related to fatigue, reduced neural activity, low blood pressure, and shortness of bearth. The disease can even lead to diarrhea and impaired formation of blood cells.

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References

  1. Nobel Prize biography of George Whipple
  2. Nobel Prize biography of William Murphy
  3. Nobel Prize biography of George Minot

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