Monday, December 6, 2010

Carl Ferdinand Cori

Carl Ferdinand Cori was born on December 5, 1896 in Prague, then part of Austria-Hungary. There were university professors on both sides of his family; his maternal gradfather was theoretical physicist Ferdinand Lipich and father was a marine biologist. He moved with his family to Trieste when he was two, where his father was the director of the Marine Biological Station. Young Cori's interest in science was sparked by his father, who took him on expeditions to collect samples. Young Cori was also a practical joker, one time planting silk worms in his mother's parlor, timed so that the moths would escape their cocoons during a party his mother was throwing. His mother was mortified. After graduating from gymnasium, in 1914, Carl went to study medicine at the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague. During World War I he served as a lieutenant in the ski corps. and sanitary corps. on the Italian front. After the war he returned to the university where he finished his medical education and met his wife Gerty who was also a medical student.

After a year as an assistant in pharmacology at the University of Graz, he and his wife emigrated to America, where he took a position as a biochemist at the State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases in Buffalo, New York. In 1928 the Coris became naturalized American citizens and in 1931 he was appointed professor of pharmacology in the medical school at Washington University in St. Louis. The Coris, Carl and Gerty, collaborated on their research, starting in their student days.

At first their research was on immunology, but they switched the topic of their research to study the fate of sugar in the human body. In 1936 they succeeded in isolating glucose-1-phosphate, a key intermediate in sugar metabolism. Once glucose enters the cell, phosphate is added to it enzymatically, forming glucose-1-phosphate. With the negatively charged phosphate group attached to it, glucose is then unable diffuse through the lipid bilayer of the cell membrane, keeping glucose sequestered within the cell, where it may be broken down to release energy. The Coris also studied how glucose can be reversibly stored for later use as glycogen and discovered the enzymes responsible. For their discovery of how glycogen is produced they were awarded half of the Nobel Prize of Physiology and Medicine in 1947.

Gerty Cori died in 1957 and Carl retired from Washington University in 1966. After retirement he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he worked on genetic research at Harvard University.

Cori died on October, 24, 1984.


Cori, Carl F.; "The Call of Science"; Annual Review of Biochemistry (1969)38:1-21

Carl Ferdinand Cori Wikipedia Entry

Carl Cori Nobel Biography

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