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EXPERIMENTAL VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY
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Part A - SpringerPlus 5:184
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Experimental vitamin B12 deficiency in a human subject – a longitudinal investigation of the performance of the holotranscobalamin (HoloTC, Active-B12) immunoassay
http://springerplus.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40064-016-1740-5

Abstract

Background

Based on Victor Herbert’s model for sequential stages in the development of vitamin B12 deficiency, the holotranscobalamin (HoloTC) immunoassay has controversially been promoted as a more specific and sensitive replacement for the total vitamin B12 test, for the diagnosis of deficiency. There have been no longitudinal studies, by means of experimental cobalamin deficiency, because ethical considerations prevent such risky studies on patients or healthy human volunteers. The objective was to provide a detailed record of the response of HoloTC, compared to total vitamin B12 and metabolites, to the development of experimental vitamin B12 deficiency in an initially replete human subject.

Methods

This 54 year old male, with a vitamin B12 deficiency possibly caused by a defect in the intracellular cobalamin metabolism, ensured an initially replete condition by means of oral doses of cyanocobalamin supplements at 1000 μg/day for 12 weeks. The subject then depleted himself of vitamin B12, by withholding treatment and using a low-cobalamin diet, until significant metabolic disturbances were observed. The responses of serum total vitamin B12 and HoloTC and the two metabolites, plasma methylmalonic acid and homocysteine, were monitored by weekly blood tests.

Results

Holotranscobalamin was not significantly more sensitive than either total serum vitamin B12 or total homocysteine, and was much less sensitive than methylmalonic acid. HoloTC decreased from an initial concentration of >128 pmol/L to a minimum of 33 pmol/L on day 742, the only day on which it fell below the lower limit of the reference interval. Total vitamin B12 decreased from an initial concentration of 606 pmol/L to a minimum of 171 pmol/L on day 728. Total homocysteine increased from an initial concentration of 8.4 μmol/L to a maximum of 14.2 μmol/L on day 609. Methylmalonic acid unexpectedly contained four distinct peaks; initially at 0.17 μmol/L, it first exceeded the upper limit of the reference interval on day 386, finally reaching a maximum peak of 0.90 μmol/L on day 658.

Conclusions

The results of this experiment are inconsistent with Herbert’s hypothesis that HoloTC is the earliest marker of vitamin B12 deficiency, and therefore do not support his model for the staged development of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Keywords

holotranscobalamin, HoloTC, Active-B12, vitamin B12, methylmalonic acid, self-experimentation

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