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Doctor discovers how a vitamin could save a patient's life before their heart stops beating

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Posted at 4:00 AM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-19 11:54:40-05

WAUWATOSA — An anesthesiologist may have discovered a way to save a patient's life when the heart is about to stop and nothing else is working: Vitamin B12.

Dr. Julie Freed says the discovery happened back in 2015 during open heart surgery. A patient's blood pressure was plummeting. Nothing was working to bring the person back, not even adrenaline.

"Running out of options so my colleagues started giving vitamin B12 and the blood pressure magically started going up," she said.

Doctor Freed had no idea the response would save the patient's life. She asked herself, "huh... how is this possibly happening?"

Dr. Freed has been searching for that answer ever since in a laboratory at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"When you started looking under the microscope... what were you thinking?" asked TODAY'S TMJ4's Julia Fello.

Dr. Freed replied, "It was almost hard to believe that a simple vitamin could have this effect."

She showed us in the lab how it works on tiny human blood vessels.

"When tissue isn't getting enough oxygen it could be releasing this compound hydrogen sulfide and that's what the vitamin B12 binds to and says nope, and kind of takes it out of the circulation."

A well-known side-effect of B12 is that it can increase blood pressure. Which in this case, is a good thing.

Dr. Freed also found B12 can help in patients who have serious bacterial infections like sepsis.

Dr. Freed was able to do this study through grants. One of the biggest was $25,000 from the Annual Steve Cullen Healthy Heart Club Run/Walk, which is happening next month.

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The Cullen Run has raised nearly $500,000 for lifesaving heart research like this study at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Julia Fello will be there on behalf of TODAY'S TMJ4 as an 'honorary chair' this year. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Dr. Freed says a Vitamin B12 is now being used in a clinical trial by a fellow doctor to treat his sepsis patients.

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