Category: Lectins and Glycomics
It would be nice if all the type O’s lived in one part of the world, and all the type A’s in another. However, this does not happen --much. The various blood groups are found pretty much all over the world. However they are not found in the same frequency everywhere. It was this difference in the frequency of the different blood types that gave the early blood type detectives their first insights into human individuality.
Soon after the ABO blood groups were discovered by Karl Landsteiner in the early 1900’s, scientists began to think about using them as a tool to help study the differences between populations. One of the first to begin using blood type in this manner was a husband and wife team, Ludwik and Hanka Hirszfeld. During World War I, they took blood samples from the soldiers of three continents then assembled in the area of Greece called Macedonia as “The Allied Army of the East.” In reality this army was a hodgepodge of battered contingents and survivors from various Allied nations which did little more than stay put in camp and suffer from constant epidemics. However the Hirszfelds realized that the international nature of this army presented opportunities of examining the serological properties of the blood of a large number of soldiers or civilians belonging to very different races.
They established three categories: One marked by a high percentage of subjects of blood type A and a low percentage of blood type B and which seemed to include the majority of European races (European type); A second showing on the contrary a high percentage of blood type B and a low one of blood type A, comprising Asians and Ethiopians (Asian-African type); and a last category containing approximately equal quantities of blood types A and B made up of Russians, Turks, Arabs and Jews, which they called an intermediate type.
The Hirszfelds invented an interesting and useful tool called the Hirszfeld Biochemical Index and which conveniently lets us express the ratio of blood group A to B in any population. The formula is very simple; you add up the number of blood type A and AB individuals in a population and then divide it by the number of blood type B and AB individuals. As so:
Hirszfeld Biochemical Index = [A + AB] /[B + AB]
Thus, the higher the Hirszfeld Biochemical Index of a population, the more blood type A people in that population over blood type B people in it; the lower, the more blood type B over A. The highest number in the Hirszfeld Biochemical Index (most As, least Bs) was found among the English troops (4.5); the lowest (most Bs, least As) were found in the Indian (0.5) and Vietnamese troops (0.8).
The work of the Hirszfelds would look crude in comparison to later, more sophisticated methods, and it suffers from the problems of all single-gene examinations of human diversity, that is there a no “pure races” to be identified by a single marker. But their discovery, published in 1919, did give rise to a considerable number of subsequent investigations, producing an enormous mass of documents of varying merit.
The arrival of blood typing signaled a new era in physical anthropology, since up to now the field had been limited to many of the physical measurements that I’ve previously described. Here now was a serologic, or blood marker, simple and easy to perform.
One of the first to begin using blood types as an anthropological tool was none other than William Boyd, who I’ve mentioned early in connection with the debunking of racism. In the years after the First World War, Boyd compiled the abundant blood group data coming from transfusion centers throughout the world. With his wife Lyle, during the 1930's, Boyd made a worldwide survey of the distribution of blood types. On this basis, he divided the world population into 13 geographically distinct races with different blood group genetic profiles. He also studied the blood groups of Egyptian and Amerindian mummies.
William Boyd appears to be one of those fascinating people who go on to dominate an entire area of research for a generation. It seems as if his creativity knew no bounds: I’ve already mentioned of his important work with Isaac Asimov used his work with blood types in Races and People to demolish the racist notions then commonly believed in this country during the 1950's; and here we are discussing his work on blood types and anthropology. But William Boyd accomplished much, much more than that. In the 1940’s Boyd noticed that the protein agglutinin in lima bean would agglutinate red cells of human blood type A but not those of O or B; he had in fact discovered that many of the of these blood agglutinins were actually specific to one blood type or another. With Elizabeth Shapely he coined their modern-day name; lectins which is Latin for “to pick or choose.”
Boyd wrote some excellent science fiction (under the name Boyd Ellanby) including two well-known books, 'Category Phoenix' in 1952 and 'Chain Reaction' in 1956. He also authored the Fundamentals of Immunology, one of the first Immunology textbooks for medical students.
By 1950 Boyd had determined about 20 genes for outward appearance traits that are recessive for typical Asians and/or Europeans but homozygous dominant for Africans. These recessive genes include the 6 to 8 genes for light skin color, the genes for blue eyes, gray eyes, blond hair, red hair, thin lips, straight hair, sacral spot, lack of facial hair (beards), narrow nose shape, and some others.
After the Second World War, William Boyd's baton as compiler of blood group data from around the world passed to the Englishman Arthur E. Mourant.
A native of Jersey in the Channel Islands, Mourant received a degree in geology, but as this was Depression-Era Britain, he was unable to find a job. His very strict Methodist upbringing had caused him considerable emotional unhappiness, which he hoped to resolve by becoming a psychoanalyst. To that end he decided to begin by first study medicine.
To avoid the German bombing raids on the capital, his medical school was moved from London to Cambridge, and it was here that he met Ronald Fisher, the most influential geneticist of his day. Fisher, a brilliant eccentric who we will meet again, had been working out the genetics of the new blood groups which were being discovered, and he had become fascinated by the particularly convoluted inheritance of one of them – the Rhesus blood group. Fisher found him a job at once, and the meticulous Mourant spent the rest of his working life compiling and interpreting the most detailed blood group frequency distribution maps ever produced. He never did become a psychoanalyst.
In the early 1600’s Pierre De Lancre, a French witch hunter, speculated why the Basque area seemed to harbor so many witches. He thought the problem stemmed from their great numbers in the various Jesuit missionaries, with all their evangelizing, which had affected them with demons from far-off places that they had carried back to Spain. De Lancre also thought that there early adoption of tobacco use may also be working on their minds. He held Basque women in special contempt, saying that they produced only undersized and cursed children who died.
As Mark Kurlansky recounts in The Basque History Of The World, this last accusation may have had a ring of truth to it, since Basques are renowned among anthropologists for their strikingly high percentage of individuals who have the Rhesus Negative (Rh-) blood type genotype (dd): 60% compared to an average of 16% for the rest of Europe. When a mother is Rh- and she gives birth to Rh+ children, an immune reaction can occur which gives rise to a hemolytic (“blood destroying”) anemia, and often would lead to the death of the child.
Mourant suggested that modern day Basques have other characteristics which may mark them as descendants of the late Paleolithic population of Western Europe: They share a skeletal resemblance to Cro-Magnon man and they are the only Western European people who do not speak a Indo-European language.
Last night I gave a second lecture at the Wilton Library. This was sponsored by the library and open to the general public, so I was surprised and pleased to see standing room only. Despite the fact that I wasn't exactly feeling all that terrific (exhaustion from doing 17 radio interviews the day before and perhaps a bit of food poisoning as well) I gave what I think was one of my best lectures ever. Funny how all the fatigue, aches and pains disappear in me when it's time to talk about this material. Expression really is the best medicine. Signed a lot of books, which were supplied by the local town book shoppe, who sold out their stock. This is a really good thing since Wilton is one of the few towns that still has a local bookseller, versus most towns with their B&Ns and Borders, who have taken over the industry.
Random House has made available a small number of signed first editions of The GenoType Diet. You can read more about it here. They cost a bit more than the jacket price of the book, but I will be donating any of my royalties to a wonderful charity in Africa that helps women develop entrepreneurial skills. Teach an person to fish.. and all that.
Yesterday featured an interesting day of sorts. The amazon.com 'Health Bestsellers' featured 5 books that I have written as part of their top 25 bestselling health books. Cool.
Got a very nice note from Professor Gerhard Uhlenbruck, who had received his copy of The GenoType Diet. The good professor (the only scientist I have meet who has read Emil Cioran) shared these thoughts:
When I worked in the earlier sixties at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, my famous teacher, Prof. Dr. W.T.J. Morgan, who elucidated the biochemical structure of the ABH(O) and Lewis blood group antigens, used to say at various occasions: "Its all in the genes!". In fact, having experience in more than 50 years in clinical science and immunochemical research, I was so often confronted with this sentence, that it became a credo to me with the value of a proverb, which explained so many phenomena of patients and their very different reactivity to the susceptibility of illnesses, chronic diseases and early aging processes. When I first heard of Peter D'Adamo's blood group diet, of course I was very skeptical: Should we have missed in our book (Prokop/ Uhlenbruck: Human Blood and Serum Groups) such an important aspect? But years later, my interest switched to the nutritional field while working on the so-called Metabolic Syndrome, my interest increased in studying the role of genes in metabolic processes. I found out, that Peter D'Adamo's blood group orientated diet could probably be a first step in the right direction, however it could not be the whole story.
So I was not surprised at all, when now a book on The Genotype Diet by him was published as a next step in this new area. And I am sure it will not be the last one by him, as the role of genes and a subsequent personal, individual view of illness, diseases and health, including aging problems, has widened the approach of medical treatment, lifestyle change and a healthy nutrition.. We all live driven by our genes, sometimes feeling to suffer under their government,, and sometimes having the wish to change over our genetic outfit, to jump over the hurdle of genes or to influence their expression. Fat is not fate! I can confirm Peter D'Adamo in so far, as I have own experience in sport medicine, exercise immunology and in treating the Metabolic Syndrome.
According to the vision of D'Adamo, it seems also to me, that we can switch on the "good genes" and turn off the bad ones. In this context we must keep in mind that more than fifty percent of all illnesses are due to an inadequate nutrition. We know now much about anti-aging genes, which can be influenced by lifestyle (exercise) or by nutrition (as a curious example the action of red winew has been investigated). Looking on Peter D'Adamo's six Genotypes, being a medical doctor too, I must admit and I am a little bit amused, that one has so often met such types in the general medical practice. In any case, the book of D'Adamo is very stimulating, full of new ideas and creative concepts. Of course it will rise criticism and controversy, but at least I have observed, that people are very faithful to these diet suggestions, much more than to other diet programs: Who heals is right?
The sentence "Its all in the genes" has to be enlarged in that way that "its all in genes we ca influence". In this respect, Peter D'Adamo's approach is very optimistic, but this may be good in order to motivate people. To alter the genetic destiny is an old dream of mankind. What can be done in this direction, is limited but very understandably outlined in this book, written in a fascinating language and produced with many pictures and tables. It demonstrates also the profound knowledge of the author, its not a superficial "quicky", but with the aim not to become something like a dogmatic "bible", but a guidance book: Health as a creative process by activating personal thoughts and ideas about a longer healthy life, which is not permanent under the threat of disease. Life-style change means a revolution in the
personal life history.
We generally have the freedom to decide on our health. This book is showing a way, walking this way we must do alone, personally, guided by the genes we activate or suppress. Let me put it together: A person can keep healthy, fit and wise, by doing his diet and daily exercise! What motivates him maybe modified individually and in future. So I can recommend this book of my colleague as a start for a personal, individual life-style change. And
for that it is never too late.
What I so like about this guy (and surprisingly for an academic) is that he understands that there is a bigger game to be played, a greater goal to be achieved, in writing books such as the GTD than just winning some sort of nebulous intellectual argument between scholars. That is important too, but more often than not it is also irrelevant.
Who heals is right. Gotta love that.
Click on the image to listen to this broadcast.
A one-hour interview of Dr. Peter DAdamo by Cary Nostler of KSTE Radio, Sacramento California. The discussion includes the basics of blood type dieting, and how it lead to the development of Dr. D'Adamo's interest in epigenetics and The GenoType Diet.
Stay tuned for a major announcement concerning IfHI 2007:
We have just received confirmation that one of our featured speakers will be Professor of Medicine Gerhard Uhlenbruck from the University of Cologne. Dr. Uhlenbruck will be joining an international faculty of experts including Dr. William Mitchell (Washington, USA), Dr. Thomas Greenfield (Kent, UK), Dr. Walter Crinnion (Arizona, USA), Dr. Emily Kane (Alaska, USA), Dina Khader (New York, USA), Dr. Erika Klus (Minnesota, US), Dr. David Bove (Oregon, USA) and myself.
Dr. Uhlenbruck is a legendary figure in lectin and blood group research. His seminal work has led to the discovery of new and novel lectins (such as peanut agglutinin) and the characterisation of lectin activities and antigen specificities (the chemical structure of T antigen was established in 1969 by Prof. Uhlenbruck and his colleagues). You can not read any modern textbook on lectinology or immunology without encountering Dr. Uhlenbruck's research legacy.
(photo from 'Lectins", Second Edition, by Sharon and Lis.
"From Fast Food to Fast Feet and from General Feeding to Individual Food."
You will not want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to meet such an important figure. Thanks to IfHI fellows Cocky van Hesteren and Isa-Manuela Albrecht for initiating the the European contact and to Martha D'Adamo and Carol Agostino for the follow-up.
We now have the full IfHI 2007 conference website up and functional. However, we are probably close to half-booked to capacity, so if you didn't add your name to the preregistration list and you are planning to attend, you probably should think about registering ASAP.