Vitamin B12 has long been known as an essential micronutrient, but groundbreaking new research from Spain now shows that it also plays a critical role in cellular reprogramming and tissue regeneration.
The findings come from a team at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona led by Dr. Manuel Serrano. They have been published in the journal Nature Metabolism.
B12 Crucial for Cellular Reprogramming
The IRB researchers focused their study on cellular reprogramming, an experimental technique thought to mimic early tissue repair. They found that the process in mice requires large amounts of vitamin B12.
In fact, depletion of B12 became a limiting factor that slowed aspects of reprogramming. Considering the normal levels of the vitamin in mouse diets, the scientists were surprised to see that B12 supplementation significantly improved efficiency.
“Our research uncovers a critical role of vitamin B12 in cellular reprogramming and tissue repair. These findings hold promise for regenerative medicine, with the potential to benefit patients through improved nutrition,” Dr. Serrano stated.
The team validated the findings in a mouse model of ulcerative colitis. Intestinal cells initiating repair underwent similar reprogramming and also benefited from extra B12. As a result, bowel disease patients could potentially gain from vitamin supplementation.
Uncovering B12’s Metabolic Role
The researchers delved deeper into the metabolic requirements of cellular reprogramming. They found that vitamin B12 enables a key methylation reaction branch of metabolism. The DNA of cells starting reprogramming needs very high methylation levels and thus B12.
B12 deficiency during repair led to major epigenetic alterations. This caused errors in multiple genes’ functions. However, supplementation corrected the imbalance and increased reprogramming fidelity and efficiency overall.
“Vitamin B12 corrected this imbalance, resulting in enhanced gene function fidelity and overall improved reprogramming efficiency,” said Dr. Marta Kovatcheva, first author and postdoctoral researcher.
Separate Study Links B12 to Lower Inflammation
Another recent study from Serrano’s group in collaboration with Dr. Rosa Lamuela-Raventós at the University of Barcelona and Dr. Ramon Estruch at Hospital Clínic de Barcelona found higher blood B12 related to less inflammation.
People with higher vitamin B12 levels had lower interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein. They saw a similar relationship in aged mice. The findings suggest B12 exerts anti-inflammatory effects by reducing these markers.
Potential Health Benefits of B12
The studies provide valuable insights into potential health benefits of vitamin B12 supplementation. Patients with chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis or bowel diseases may gain from higher intakes.
B12’s newly discovered importance in regeneration also opens doors for applications in regenerative medicine. For example, enhancing levels prior to procedures like bone marrow transplants could improve outcomes.
Future research will explore these areas further. But in the meantime, the findings reinforce the vital importance of adequate B12 levels for overall wellbeing.
Experts say eating a balanced diet with animal foods like meat, eggs, and dairy can help maintain healthy B12 status. Older adults and those with absorption issues may require supplements.
With the intricate roles of vitamin B12 continuing to be unraveled, it’s clear this micronutrient offers even more benefits than previously thought. The IRB Barcelona’s groundbreaking research propels our understanding forward dramatically.