Sunday, November 13, 2011

Edward Adelbert Doisy

Edward Adelbert Doisy was born on November 13, 1893 in Hume, Illinois.   His father, Edward, was a traveling salesman and his mother Ada was a homemaker.  He went to the University of Illinois, where he earned his bachelors in 1914 and his masters in 1916, both in chemistry.   From 1915 until 1917 he was a biochemistry assistant at Harvard University and from 1917 to 1919 he served in the U.S. Army Sanitary Corps.  Starting in 1919 he taught biochemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and he finished his Ph.D., from Harvard University, in 1920, with his thesis research on methods of detecting nitrogen containing biochemicals in blood, including creatine, creatinine and uric acid.  In 1923 he was named the head of the biochemistry department at St. Louis University, in St. Louis, Missouri, where he remained for the rest of his career.

With Edgar Allen, his research assistant, Doisy investigated the mouse estrous cycle and by 1936 they succeed in isolating all three estrogens (esterone, esterdiol and estratiol) from human urine (while collecting samples, one driver committed a traffic violation and was pulled over by a policeman, who when seeing the bottles of amber liquid in the car, believed that the driver was a bootlegger).  Doisy followed the work of Danish researcher Henrick Dam, who had grown baby chickens on an artificial diet that contained no fats, and found that they were prone to hemmoraging. Dam also found this could be cured by a diet of hempseed, and was able to isolate the active principal.  Doisy, with the assistance of graduate assistant Ralph McKee, was able to isolate two forms of this chemical (named K1 and K2).

Vitamin K, first reported by Dam, is short for Koagulationsvitamin, the German name given to it.  Vitamin K functions to modify proteins by adding a carboxy group certain glutamine residues forming gamma-carboxyglutamate, which allows the protein to bind calcium.  These modified proteins take part in the blood coagulation cascade and bone metabolism.  Like other fat soluble vitamins (A and D) it is stored in fat tissue in the human body.  Newborns are injected with a dose of vitamin K to prevent hemmoraging.  It is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard and fruits including avacado, grapes, and kiwi fruit.  For their work in discovering vitamin K, Doisy and Dam were awarded the 1943 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine.

Other awards won by Doisy include honorary degrees from Yale, Washington, Chicago, Illinois, St Louis, Gustavus Aldolphus College, and Paris Universities.  He served on the League of Nations Committee for the Standardization of Sex Hormones in 1932 and 1935.  He was president of the American Society of Biological chemists from 1943 to 1945, the Endocrine Society from 1948 to 1950 and the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine from 1950 to 1951.  In 1955 the biochemistry department of St. Louis University was named after him.  He retired in 1965.

He died on October 23, 1986.


Carey, Charles W.; American Scientists; Infobase Publishing; 2006

Simoni, Robert D., Hill, Robert L., and Vaughn, Linda; "The Discovery of Esterone, Esterol, and Esterdiol and the Biochemical Study of Reproduction.  The Work of Edward Aldebet Doisy"; The Journal of Biological Chemistry(2002)277:e7

Edward A. Doisy Nobel Autobiography

Edward Aldebert Doisy Wikipedia Entry

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