Professor John Scott, folate and neural tube defects


  • A. Victor Hoffbrand

    Corresponding author
    1. Emeritus Professor of Haematology, University College London, London, UK
    2. Honorary Consultant Haematologist, Royal Free Hospital, London, UK
    • Correspondence: Professor A.V. Hoffbrand, Department of Haematology, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London NW3 2QG, UK.


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John Scott (1940–2013) was born in Dublin where he was to spend the rest of his career, both as an undergraduate and subsequently Professor of Biochemistry and Nutrition at Trinity College. His research with the talented group of scientists and clinicians that he led has had a substantial impact on our understanding of folate metabolism, mechanisms of its catabolism and deficiency. His research established the leading theory of folate involvement with vitamin B12 in the pathogenesis of vitamin B12 neuropathy. He helped to establish the normal daily intake of folate and the increased requirements needed either in food or as a supplement before and during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. He also suggested a dietary supplement of vitamin B12 before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube defects. It would be an appropriate epitaph if fortification of food with folic acid became mandatory in the UK and Ireland, as it is in over 70 other countries.