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Discovery of Zinc as an Essential Element for Human: Impact of zinc on health and disease
Amanda Prasad, MD, PhD, MACN
Essentiality of zinc for humans and its deficiency was recognized in 1963. During the past 50 years, it has become apparent that deficiency of zinc in humans is prevalent. Nutritional deficiency of zinc may affect nearly 2 billion subjects in the developing world. Consumption of cereal proteins high in phytate decreases the availability of zinc for absorption. Conditioned deficiency of zinc is also very common. Growth retardation, hypogonadism in males, rough skin, impaired immunity, neuro-sensory disorder and cognitive impairment are some of the clinical manifestations of zinc deficiency. Zinc is involved in many biochemical functions. Over 300 enzymes require zinc for their activation and nearly 2000 transcription factors require zinc for gene expression. Zinc is essential for cell mediated immunity. Zinc is also an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. In therapeutic dosages, zinc has been used for the treatment of acute diarrhea in infants and children, common cold, Wilson's disease, sickle cell disease and for prevention of blindness in patients with age related macular degeneration.
Ananda S. Prasad, MD, PhD, MACP has been at Wayne State University since 1963 when he took a position as Director of the Division of Hematology, a post he held until 1984 when he became the Director of the Division of Research. Prasad has also been a Professor of Medicine at Wayne from 1968 until the present. He was appointed as Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology in 2000. Dr. Prasad's pioneering studies from the Middle East in the early sixties established for the first time the essentiality of zinc for human nutrition and showed that its deficiency occurred in humans. The impacts of this discovery include establishment of RDA for zinc in 1974, mandatory inclusion of zinc in TPN fluids in 1978 resulting in saving of many lives, its use in children with acute diarrhea decreasing the mortality, its use in the elderly with age related macular degeneration for prevention of blindness, treatment of common cold and prevention of infection in the elderly. Dr. Prasad is author of twelve books and over three hundred scientific articles. Dr. Prasad's several papers have been cited as citation classics. One paper was republished as nutrition classic and another as landmark article. He has received many awards, which include Goldberger award (AMA), Mastership of the American College of Physicians, Robert H. Herman award (ASCN), Medal of Honor from the Mayor of Lyon, France, Honorary doctorate from Claude Bernard University, Lyon, France, election as corresponding member of The European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and American College of Physicians' (ACP) highest award for outstanding work in science as related to Medicine. In 2010, Dr. Prasad received the prestigious Mahidol Award from Royal Highness King of Thailand for his discovery of zinc as an essential element for human health. Discovery of human zinc deficiency in the early sixties by Dr. Prasad was highlighted in a symposium in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2010 and at FASEB, American Society of Nutrition Symposium, "History of Zinc as a Nutrient," San Diego California in April, 2012. The American Physiological Society celebrated their 125th year anniversary in 2012 in April at San Diego and at this meeting they recognized 35 members for their achievements which impacted significantly the field of Physiology and Dr. Prasad's discovery of zinc as an essential element for human was included in this honor list.