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Vitamin K and thrombosis

Geno J Merli, James Fink
Vitamins and Hormones 2008, 78: 265-79
Vitamin K was discovered in the 1930s during cholesterol metabolism experiments in chickens. It is a fat-soluble vitamin which occurs naturally in plants as phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and is produced by gram-negative bacteria in the human gastrointestinal tract as menaquinone (vitamin K2). This vitamin was found to be essential for normal functioning of hemostasis. In addition, a number of clinical conditions in which vitamin K deficiency was found to be the underlying pathophysiologic problem were discovered. These conditions include hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, obstructive jaundice, and malabsorption syndromes. The importance of this vitamin has become more apparent with the discovery of the anticoagulant warfarin which is a vitamin K antagonist. There are millions of patients on this therapy for a variety of thrombogenic conditions such as atrial fibrillation, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and prosthetic cardiac valves. The wide use of this narrow therapeutic index drug has resulted in significant risk for major bleeding. Vitamin K serves as one of the major reversing agent for patients over-anticoagulated with warfarin. In the past few years, research has focused on new areas of vitamin K metabolism, which include bone and endovascular metabolism; cell growth, regulation, migration, and proliferation; cell survival, apoptosis, phagocytosis, and adhesion. These new areas of research highlight the significance of vitamin K but raise new clinical questions for patients who must be maintained on long-term warfarin therapy.

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