Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is essential for many bodily functions, including DNA synthesis, repair, and methylation. In 1941, H. K. Mitchell and co-workers isolated it by extracting 4 tons of spinach. In 1948, much work on folic acid was published, including the determination of its structure by J. H. Mowat and colleagues. Closely related methotrexate is an “antifolate” that can be used to treat cancer, but it has toxic side effects. It is also used to treat some autoimmune diseases and to terminate pregnancy. The more recent, less toxic pemetrexed, another antifolate chemotherapy drug, was approved by the FDA in 2004.
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