Professor Walter E Stumpf: Ahead of his time

Posted on: June 24, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD

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Professor Walter Stumpf is one of the forgotten heroes of vitamin D. From 1970 to 1995, he was at my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a Professor of Cell Biology and Pharmacology with appointments in the Department of Anatomy and Pharmacology. There he laid the groundwork for the Vitamin D Era.

In 1979, he said hold on; it appears that activated vitamin D (he called it soltriol) binds to sites all over the body, not just the kidney, intestine, parathyroid, and bone. He developed a technique for radiolabeling activated vitamin D and then injecting it into animals to see where it bound.

His first discovery, published in Science in 1979, was that it bonded in pituitary, stomach and skin tissue, just to name a few. No one believed him. Vitamin D was only involved with calcium, they said.

Stumpf WE, Sar M, Reid FA, Tanaka Y, DeLuca HF.Target cells for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in intestinal tract, stomach, kidney, skin, pituitary, and parathyroid. Science. 1979 Dec 7;206(4423):1188-90.

Undeterred, he was the first to hypothesize that it was functioning all over the body, as a steroid hormone. Three years and 11 papers later, he discovered that activated vitamin D bound to brain tissue, a discovery again published in the prestigious journal, Science.

Stumpf WE, Sar M, Clark SA, DeLuca HF. Brain target sites for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Science. 1982 Mar 12;215(4538):1403-5.

Seven years and 19 papers later, he discovered activated vitamin D was involved in reproduction, noting its importance in puberty, fertility (male and female), pregnancy, lactation, and even sexual behavior.

Stumpf WE, Denny ME. Vitamin D (soltriol), light, and reproduction. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1989 Nov;161(5):1375-84. Review.

Last month he was senior author on a paper hypothesizing that vitamin D was involved in the epidemic of sleep disorders.

Gominak SC, Stumpf WE. The world epidemic of sleep disorders is linked to vitamin D deficiency. Med Hypotheses. 2012 May 12. [Epub ahead of print]

Professor Walter Stumpf is, perhaps, someone you have never heard of. However, while others were claiming that vitamin D is only involved in calcium metabolism, he was exploring the whole body, laying the foundation for the Vitamin D Era.

2 Responses to Professor Walter E Stumpf: Ahead of his time

  1. Dan

    ConsumerLabs writes this on its Vitamin D supplement review: “People with higher levels of Vitamin D actually tend to die sooner than those with a lower but sufficient levels (20-30 ng/mL)… so consider cutting back (if over 30).” Then it cites a study that looked at 400 iu and 800 iu Vitamin D3 with and without calcium but did not measure 25(OH)D in the blood! Ref http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/early/2012/05/09/jc.2012-1176.abstract

  2. anniecmars@yahoo.com.au

    You are right Dr Cannell, I hadn’t heard of Prof Stumpf but after seeing what he has written, the world is fortunate to have such a wonderful – and persistent – researcher working on vitamin D!!!

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