Friday, September 5, 2008

What is Orthomolecular Medicine?

Stephen Lawson
LPI Adminstrative Officer

The word "orthomolecular" was introduced by Linus Pauling in "Orthomolecular Psychiatry", his seminal 1968 article published in the journal Science. Before defining this term, it may be useful to review some of the events that led to its introduction. In 1949, Pauling and his colleagues published a paper in Science that announced the discovery of the cause of sickle-cell anemia, the first disease to be described as a molecular disease.

He had worked on hemoglobin for many years and published a number of papers on its properties. (In 1965, he and Emile Zuckerkandl published an extremely influential paper on the use of hemoglobin and other globin proteins to estimate the evolutionary divergence of organisms, which introduced the science of molecular evolution.) While serving as a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the United States government in 1945, Pauling listened to Dr. William Castle of Harvard describe the abnormal sickle shape of the red corpuscles in patients with sickle-cell anemia.

Pauling immediately suggested that the sickling might be caused by an abnormal hemoglobin that combined with itself into long rods when deoxygenated. The long rods then twist the red corpuscle into the abnormal shape characteristic in sickle-cell anemia. A few years later, Pauling was able to test and confirm this hypothesis with the help of Dr. Harvey Itano. Their Science paper, which demonstrated that sickle-cell anemia is caused by an abnormal molecule, heralded the era of molecular medicine. Continue Reading >>

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