Dr Albert Szent Gyorgi


by Nigel Bunce and Jim Hunt
College of Physical Science
University of Guelph


Albert Szent Gyorgi, the Nobel Prize winning biochemist, died last year at the age of 93. Szent Gyorgi shared the Nobel Prize in 1937 with Hopkins for his discovery of ascorbic acid, commonly known as Vitamin C. It may come as a surprise to readers to realize that the discovery and investigation of the properties of vitamins is so recent.

The story of vitamins begins with the Dutch physician Christiaan Eijkman (1858)1930). Pasteur's germ theory of disease had been so successful that it was widely believed that bacteria were at the root of all diseases. One disease that failed to produce a bacterial cause was beriberi; Eijkman showed that the disease had a dietary cause which he thought was a food toxin. It was later shown by Sir Frederick Hopkins (1861)1947) that this disease and also rickets and scurvy, were caused not by a food toxin but by a dietary deficiency of a trace chemical.

It was the American biochemist Casimir Funk (1884)1967) who suggested the name. He believed that all the important dietary trace chemicals were amines so he proposed the name "vitamine". When it was later seen that chemicals other than amines were also involved the final "e" was dropped.

Szent Gyorgi was born in Hungary and spent the First World War in the Austrian army. After the war, he studied at Groningen and with Hopkins at Cambridge. It was here that he became interested in a chemical agent, present in plant juices, which had the effect of delaying oxidations caused by the peroxidase enzyme. An example of such an oxidation is the browning of a sliced apple exposed to the air. He suggested that this agent which was also present in cabbages and oranges was the mysterious Vitamin C, the lack of which caused the disease scurvy.

By 1933, he had isolated the substance in kilogram lots and named it "ascorbic acid" which means "the acid which prevents scurvy".

Szent Gyorgi next turned to the proteins involved in muscle contraction. One muscle protein "myosin" was already known. It was during the extraction of this protein that he discovered the other important muscle protein "actin". This was the beginning of the whole area of the study of the contraction of actomyosin threads and the biochemistry and molecular structure of muscle. This topic is pursued in many places today, including the Physics Department at the University of Guelph.

During World War II, Szent Gyorgi was in constant danger from the Nazis and finally took refuge in the Swedish legation in Budapest. The Gestapo raided the legation but he escaped and remained in hiding for the rest of the war. He was rescued by the Russian armies and taken to Moscow on the direct orders of Molotov. He was well)treated by the Russians but, knowing he could not work in their system, he went to the United States in 1947 where he settled at the Marine Biological Laboratories at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Szent Gyorgi continued many biochemical studies at Woods Hole including the secretions of the thymus gland. He became increasingly interested in the study of cancer but held such unorthodox views on its origin that his financial support dwindled with the passing years. It was at Woods Hole that he died on October 22, 1986

Dr. Irwin Stone, FIAC
1331 Charmwood Square
San Jose CA 95117
(408) 374 1980

30 August 1982
Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
National Foundation for Cancer Research
PO Box 187
Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543

Dear Albert,

It is over a year since I last wrote you. Now, after 7 more published papers on the genetics of scurvy, I want to bring you up to date.

Enclosed is a transcript of my latest paper, presented 26 June 1982, "Scurvy, the Most Misunderstood Epidemic Disease in 20th Century Medicine", Reprint No.120-T, which I thought would interest you because of its implications in cancer research.

Because of the poor and inadequate full correction of the human defective gene for GLO (too little daily ascorbate intake), every cancer victim was born scorbutic, after a 9-month intrauterine bout with scurvy. This poor correction, due to grossly inadequate maternal daily intakes of ascorbate, continues throughout the lifetime of the victims, exposing them constantly to the deleterious physiological insults of Chronic Subclinical Scurvy (the CSS Syndrome). This is a large factor in the genesis of the cancer. Every cancer victim being treated by orthodox oncologists suffers also from a bad case of the CSS Syndrome. When the orthodox cut, burn, and poison techniques prove too much, the cancer victims do not die solely from the cancer lesion, but are pushed into their grave by the exacerbated uncorrected scurvy that is always present. We and other workers in this field haven't really realized the enormous size of daily dosage of ascorbate required for therapy and survival in cancer.

I would like to tell you of an unusual cancer case history that I believe could act as a prototype for future cancer therapy and survival. A 44 year old chemist and patent attorney, a friend of mine, Joe Kieninger, in May 1973, was diagnosed as having prostatic cancer and received the usual high risk surgery and radiation therapy. In November 1977 a bone scan indicated the cancer had metastasized to the pelvic bone. At that time he was declared "terminal" with about 1 year to live. In January 1978, he started taking laetrile and 2 grams of ascorbic acid a day. After 10 months the cancer was still growing slowly and he modified his therapy to ascorbate orally at 24 grams per day. The cancer continued to grow and a new pelvic tumor was found as well as a tumor in the lung. In May 1979 he increased his ascorbate intake to 80 grams per day and at this level there was no cancer growth for the next 6 months. During the past 2½ years he had the cancer under control and it grew only when his ascorbate intakes were less than 80 grams a day, or he went off his diet (no beef, candy, etc.) but stayed at 80 grams a day. During this time one pelvic tumor and rib cage tumor regressed. His primary pelvic bone tumor has not grown for 16 months and several times his lung tumors have not grown for 3 month periods. Since he began taking 80 grams a day in 1979, his well-being has been excellent. He says he feels great most of the time, has also been able to continue working every day and lives a fairly normal life of the years since November 1978 when orthodox medicine said he would be dead. Visually he looks more like an athlete than a terminal cancer patient. Recently he has been feeling poorly because of some unusual excessive stresses. His wife broke her ankle and he had to take care of her and his home in addition to work and also underwent surgery. In the last few weeks he has been able to improve his well-being by increasing his ascorbate intake to 130 to 150 grams per day!! He has been taking oral doses every hour of 5 to 10 grams of a mixture of nine parts sodium ascorbate plus one part ascorbic acid dissolved in water. These doses are well tolerated and within "bowel tolerance" and he has had no trouble from diarrhea except just lately when he had to reduce the 150 grams a day to 130 grams.

I believe Joe's case is a classic and a good demonstration that if sufficient ascorbate is given to fully conteract all the incident stresses, then the cancer can be controlled. If given early enough in this disease, then cancer may no longer be a problem. Up to now we just haven't realized how big these daily controlling doses have to be.

Joe occasionally goes over to see Dr. Barry Saltzman of our local Holistic Medical Group for a booster IV shot of sodium ascorbate. Dr. Saltzman ran some ascorbate determinations on Joe's blood and came up with the highest blood levels I ever saw. At one point it was 35 mg%!! Our so-called "normal" but scorbutic population averages 1 mg% or less, our kidney threshold is 1.4 mg%.

Last year Joe also went to see Dr. Ewan Cameron of Scotland when he was visiting at the Linus Pauling Institute in Palo Alto, California. Dr. Cameron was astounded at his 35 mg% blood values. In the published Cameron and Pauling cancer work, they only used a maximum dose of 20 grams of ascorbate a day.

I would like to see a crash ascorbate program started on terminal cancer patients using doses in the ranges found by Joe Keininger to keep his cancer under control. Since these "terminals" have been abandoned by orthodox medicine, they have nothing to lose but their ill health. If we could add years of survival and fairly normal living as Joe did, then it might be an incentive for orthodox oncologists to properly use ascorbate in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Maybe your NFCR could start the ball rolling on this terminal cancer salvage program.

Proper funding for work of this type is always a problem and your Foundation probably needs funds just as mine and Linus Pauling's does. To help the Linus Pauling Institute with its fund raising drives, I've agreed to autograph copies of my book, THE HEALING FACTOR, "VITAMIN C" AGAINST DISEASE, to be given to any donor contributing $100. or more. I would be happy to make available to NFCR, reprints of my scientific papers for this purpose such as the enclosed Reprint No.120-T on "Scurvy" or Reprint No.85, "The Genetics of Scurvy and The Cancer Problem", or any other of about 50 reprints listed in the enclosed list, if you want to use them in your NFCR Research Review. Please let me know how I can help.

I'm sorry this letter became so long. With kind regards and best wishes,

Sincerely yours

(signed) Irwin

Encl. 3 Reprints No.120-T, No.85,
List of Publications 1965-1982
cc. - Joseph Keininger, 1125 Casaba Creek Court
San Jose, CA 95120

21st Century readers: mg% = milligrams (of vitamin C)
in 100 grams of water or other liquid = parts per 100,000.

Reprinted from: www.nutri.com

[sent dyoor dyee] (1893–1986) Hungarian-US biochemist: worked on vita-min C and on the biochemistry of muscle.

Szent-Györgi had four generations of scientists in his mother’s family, and in 1911 began to study medicine at Budapest. By 1914 he had already published some research on the eye before he was called into the Austro-Hungarian army. He was soon decorated for bravery but, in order to return to his studies, he shot himself in the arm. Later he was redrafted, but again proved an awkward soldier by protesting against the treatment of prisoners. As a result he was sent to a base in Northern Italy where a malaria epidemic was raging, but within weeks the war was over and he returned to complete his medical course. Afterwards he researched in five countries and received his PhD in Cambridge for work on vitamins with . Back in Hungary in the 1930s, he showed that vitamin C (the anti-scorbutic vitamin, ascorbic acid) was in fact a compound he had first isolated in Cambridge in 1928. He also showed that paprika (Hungarian red pepper) is a rich source of it; in 1937 he won the Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology for his work on vitamin C. By 1935 he was working on the biochemistry of muscle; he began the work which was later developed by on the metabolism of muscle. He also isolated two proteins from muscle (myosin and actin) and showed that they combined to form actomyosin. When ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is added to fibres of this, it contracts. ‘Seeing this artificial bundle contract was the most exciting moment of my scientific career’, he wrote. This work was extended by .

He also had an exciting Second World War, working for the Allies and the underground resistance. Afterwards, he was offered the presidency of Hungary, but he emigrated to the USA in 1947 and directed muscle research at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. In the 1960s he worked on the thymus gland and on cancer, which had killed his wife and daughter. He was a man who had novel and daring research ideas; he ‘thought big’ and, a keen fisherman, claimed he liked to use an ‘extra-large hook’.

Let's Look at Antioxidants - Part IV

Flavonoids are a sub-class of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) called polyphenols. They form a vast new source of potent antioxidants, some of which are essential for health and which your body cannot make, but must obtain from food. If they had been discovered in the vitamin era, some would probably be on the vitamin list today. But back then, only a few brilliant scientists had sufficient intellectual ability to leap beyond the crude biochemical thinking of the day.

One such researcher was Dr. Albert Szent Gyorgi, who first isolated vitamin C in 1928. He found that citrus bioflavonoids protected vitamin C from oxidation and appeared to be direct protectors of the membranes of blood vessels and connective tissue by preventing free radicals from "burning" holes in them.

We know now that deficiency of citrus bioflavonoids allows oxidative processes to weaken membranes and connective tissue, thereby courting widespread bodily injury and inflammation. But because this condition is not a clear disease state, Szent Gyorgi was ignored, and interest in flavonoids lapsed for nearly a century.

Now they are big news, largely due to the work of Dr. Jacques Masquelier. Looking for new sources of antioxidants, he researched the story of explorer Jacques Cartier, who discovered Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534. His ship was trapped in the winter ice, and with no fresh food, Cartier and his men developed scurvy. Many died. Those remaining alive met Indians who introduced them to a tea made from the bark of the Anneda pine. Within weeks the scurvy was cured.

Over 400 years later, Masquelier isolated a rich source of mixed antioxidant flavonoids from the bark of Pinus maritima, a local French coastal pine similar to the Anneda pine. He patented the mix and named it pycnogenol.

In 1971, Masquelier found a cheaper and even more potent source of flavonoids in grape seeds and grape skins. They are the procyanidins, a class of the proanthocyanidins, the phytochemicals responsible for the deep reds, blues and purples of many plants. Of the 5000 flavonoids so far chemically identified, some 250 are proanthocyanidins. Most of them are potent antioxidants and occur widely in fruits and vegetables, including many types of beans, grapes, cranberries, blackcurrants, green tea, and the inner skins of nuts.

We have now learned that procyanidins help protect vitamin C and potentiate its action. They directly neutralize superoxide, hydroxyl, and hydrogen peroxide radicals and are directly anti-inflammatory, both by antioxidant actions and because they inhibit production of inflammatory prostaglandins.

Procyanidins also have specific antioxidant action of special relevance to athletes. Those from grape seeds and green tea in particular, selectively bind with your connective tissue, that network of elastic fibers that holds you together. There, in combination with vitamin C, they directly protect the collagen and elastin that keep you supple and flexible. One of the biggest barriers to optimal athletic performance is stiffness and loss of full range of motion, caused by free radical damage to connective tissue. Procyanidins prevent a lot of this damage.

The Pasteur Institute has rigorously tested numerous procyanidins. None were found to be toxic in any way. They have been in wide use in Europe for more than 30 years, without reports of toxicity. We use a wide variety, containing up to 800 mg of grape seed extract, standardized for 95% procyanidins. While the evidence suggests strongly that these flavonoids are essential antioxidants for athletes, we recommend they be included in everyone's supplements.

We have spent two decades at the Colgan Institute sifting through more than 1000 studies on polyphenols including 400 on flavonoids alone. The evidence shows without a doubt that the flavonoids have strong antioxidant functions in the human body. We can divide those flavonoids with the best researched antioxidant action into nine categories, depending on their chemical characteristics. They are shown in the table, together with their common plant sources.

Make sure that you include a good variety of flavonoids in your supplement program and always eat plenty of variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.


Colgan M, Colgan L. The Flavonoid Revolution. Vancouver, BC: Apple Publishing, 1997.

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