Akira Murata

Akira Murata, 1975.

A year before being introduced to Fukumi Morishige‘s work, Linus Pauling was paying close attention to research being conducted by another Japanese colleague, Dr. Akira Murata, who was studying the inactivation of viruses by vitamin C.  Over the coming years, Morishige and Murata often worked together on research related to vitamin C.  And as with Morishige, Murata became a close colleague of Pauling’s, hosting him on numerous visits to Japan and, on at least a few occasions, traveling across the Pacific to visit Pauling in California.

Murata was born in Shimonoseki, Japan in 1935, and later attended Kyushu University, receiving his Ph.D. in microbiology in 1963.  In 1966 he accepted the position of Associate Professor at Saga University, where he has remained for the bulk of his career.

From early on, Murata was interested in vitamin C and, in particular, the impact that it could make on viruses.  In 1975 Murata summarized much of his early work in a paper written for the Intersectional Congress of the International Association of Microbiological Societies titled, “Virucidal Activity of Vitamin C: Vitamin C for Prevention and Treatment of Viral Diseases.” In it, he outlined a series of clinical trials that he had conducted with Morishige, which focused on the impact of vitamin C on viruses using phages for model systems and their host bacteria. A year later, in 1976, Murata went to the United States to study vitamin C and the immune system at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine.

Murata and Pauling in Pauling's office, 1976.

A parallel track of research conducted by Murata and Morishige in the 1970s focused on the impact of vitamin C on hepatitis.  The duo authored an important paper titled “Vitamin C for Prophylaxis of Viral Hepatitis B in Transfused Patients,” (J. Int. Acad. Prev. Med. 1978;5(1):54–58) in which they discussed their hepatitis work.  In it, Murata and Morishige reported on a series of tests in which patients who had received blood transfusions were also given specific dosages of vitamin C.  From there, observations were made with respect to hepatitis contraction among the transfusion patients.

The researchers found that, between 1967 and 1976, no hepatitis B cases were recorded for those who received large doses of vitamin C following a blood transfusion. The paper concluded that vitamin C, in large amounts, has a “significant prophylactic effect against post-transfusion hepatitis, especially type B.”  Prior to its publication, Pauling annotated and edited Murata and Morishige’s text, adding his suggestions for how the manuscript could be improved.

In 1976, the year of his residency at the Pauling Institute, Murata also published observations made by Morishige on the effect of increased doses of ascorbic acid with respect to various viral and bacterial diseases. In their study, the duo found that ascorbic acid showed a therapeutic effect on infectious hepatitis, measles, mumps, viral orchitis, viral pneumonia and certain types of meningitis.

Murata continued this line of research through the 1980s, continually seeking out new ways to test the effects of vitamin C on human health. Like Pauling and Morishige, Murata was also highly interested in vitamin C and its possible therapeutic use with cancer. Several papers arose from this program of work, including one titled “Prolongation of Survival Times of Terminal Cancer Patients by Administration of Large Doses of Ascorbate,” (Int. J. Vitam. Nutr. Res. Suppl. 1982;23:103-113) and another listing viruses reported to be inactivated by vitamin C. Together, Pauling and Murata also served as chairmen and panel members for at least one workshop on vitamin C, immunology and cancer.

Akira Murata, Ava Helen Pauling and Linus Pauling. In Japan, 1980.

By the late 1980s, Akira Murata had contributed upwards of twenty-five publications on vitamin C and its effects upon various diseases, and Pauling continued to visit him and keep in contact. Murata typically hosted at least a portion of Pauling’s many visits to Japan, often acting in the duel capacity of scientific colleague and friend. Murata also translated a few of Pauling’s books into Japanese. Among these was Vitamin C, the Common Cold, and the Flu, the preface of which contains Pauling’s note of thanks to Murata and the observation that “it is important that everyone know about the great value that vitamin C has in improving health and in protecting against disease.” Murata also translated Pauling’s best-seller, How to Live Longer and Feel Better.

As with a few other contacts in Japan – especially Morishige – Pauling remained in close correspondence with Murata over the duration of their acquaintance, frequently discussing papers on vitamin C and exchanging ideas on new studies. The two remained friends and collaborators throughout the last two decades of Pauling’s life, both benefiting greatly from their cross-cultural exchange.

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