Lucy Wills, LRCP was a prominent English
haematologist. She steered significant work in India during the late 1920s and
early 1930s especially on macrocytic anaemia of pregnancy. Her annotations in
fact led to her detection of a nutritional factor in yeast which both thwarts
and cures this particular disorder.
Wills witnessed a parallel association between the
dietary habits of different classes of women in Mumbai and the prospect of
their becoming anaemic during gestation. Poor Muslim women had the utmost vulnerability
This anaemia was then recognized as 'pernicious
anaemia of pregnancy'. Nevertheless, Wills was able to validate that the
anaemia she detected contrasted from true malicious anaemia. The patients did
not have achlorhydria. This is an incapability to produce gastric acid. She hypothesized
that there must have been other nutritional factor that is blamable for this
macrocytic anaemia other than vitamin B12 deficiency. Earlier this nutritional
factor was known as the 'Wills Factor', and in the 1940s, it turned to be
folate, of which the synthetic form is folic acid.
Wills finally decided to examine the possible
nutritional treatments by learning the effects of dietary manipulation on a
macrocytic anaemia in albino rats initially. This work was carried out at the
Nutritional Research Laboratories at the Pasteur Institute of India in Coonoor.
And eventually, the rat anaemia was barred by the adding yeast to synthetic
diets which had no vitamin B. This particular work was redone using rhesus
monkeys in the future as the rat results were spoiled by a lice contagion which may
have crooked the final results.
Wills piloted clinical trials on patients with macrocytic
anemia and established that this type could be both prohibited and cured by