Carl Henrik Dam – discoverer of vitamin K

Biography & Contributions

Carl Henrik Dam [Carl Peter Henrik Dam / Henrik Dam] was a Danish biochemist and physiologist and Nobel laureate born on February 21, 1895 - died on April 17, 1976.

In the late 1920's, Dam began experiments to discover how hens synthesized cholesterol. He found that when he fed the hens a special diet, they hemorrhaged under the skin and their blood was slow to coagulate. Dam decided that a vitamin in foods must give blood the ability to clot.

Dam and his associates demonstrated a deficiency disease of chicks characterized by a tendency to bleed and an increased blood-clotting time. He described the disease is due to lack of an antihemorrhagic vitamin, which he later showed to be fat-soluble and present in green leaves. He coined it vitamin K.

Facts about Vitamin K

Vitamin K refers to a group of structurally similar, fat-soluble vitamins the human body needs for complete synthesis of certain proteins that are required for blood coagulation, and also certain proteins that the body uses to manipulate binding of calcium in bone and other tissues.

Vitamin K includes two natural vitamers: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1, is synthesized by plants, and is found in highest amounts in green leafy vegetables because it is directly involved in photosynthesis. It may be thought of as the "plant" form of vitamin K. It is active as a vitamin in animals and performs the classic functions of vitamin K, including its activity in the production of blood-clotting proteins.

Vitamin K1, the precursor of most vitamin K in nature, is a steroisomer of phylloquinone, an important chemical in green plants, where it functions as an electron acceptor in photosystem I during photosynthesis.

Vitamin K2, the main storage form in animals, has several subtypes, which differ in isoprenoid chain length.

Vitamin K is involved in the carboxylation of certain glutamate residues in proteins to form gamma-carboxyglutamate (Gla) residues.

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