Lucy Wills: Woman who prevented pregnant women from being anaemic
Google Doodle on Friday paid tribute to English haematologist Lucy Wills, whose early research in India helped identify folic acid supplementation to prevent anaemia in pregnant women. The doodle, depicting Wills working in a laboratory setting, commemorates her 131st birth anniversary.
Born in 1888, Wills conducted seminal work in India in 1928 on macrocytic anaemia during pregnancy, which is characterised by enlarged red blood cells and is life-threatening. Her observations led to the discovery of a nutritional factor in yeast which both prevents and cures this disorder.
The nutritional factor called the 'Wills Factor' was subsequently shown to be folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid. Macrocytic anaemia was prevalent in a severe form among poorer women with dietary deficiencies, particularly those in the textile industry.
Wills observed an apparent correlation between the dietary habits of different classes of women in Mumbai and the likelihood of their becoming anaemic during pregnancy. This anaemia was then known as 'pernicious anaemia of pregnancy'.
However, Wills was able to demonstrate that the anaemia she observed differed from true pernicious anaemia, as the patients did not have achlorhydria or inability to produce gastric acid. Wills spent her life travelling the world and researching on the health of pregnant women until her death in 1964.
(With inputs from agencies.)