Today we’re going to talk about a very special woman named Gerty Cori. Those of you who’ve ever had a biochemistry course have probably already heard of the Cori cycle to which this woman contributed to. So let’s talk about her!
Gerty Theresa Radnitz was her maiden name. She was born in 1847 in what is now known as Czech-Republic. She got admitted to medical school at the Karl-Franz university in 1914 where she met her husband Carl Cori.
Due to anti-semitism in Europe the couple moved to the U.S. and became naturalized citizens. They both worked in a laboratory and investigated the carbohydrate metabolism.
What’s quite striking is that universities wanted Carl Cori to work for them, but not Gerty. Despite these unfortunate events they kept working together however it took Gerti longer to get the same wage and position as her husband had. She was made a professor in 1943 at Washington university (where she’d worked since 1931).
They discovered the Cori cycle for which they got half of the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology in 1947. The other half went to Bernardo Houssay.
The Cori cycle describes how glycogen is converted to lactic acid and then reconverted to glucose.
Today I wanted to switch things up and start” scientist of the day”. I will try to do one of these post every once in a while to highlight a scientist who has done remarkable research in the field of medicine.
The first scientist featured in this series is Gerhard Domagk. He was born in 1895 in what is now known as Poland. He studied medicine but the war started and without finishing his degree he volunteered as soldier. When he got injured he ended up in a war hospital where he saw most soldiers die of infection diseases. What really made an impact was that there really was no functional treatment for these diseases. Surgery didn’t always work nor did medication.
After the war he got his degree in medicine and made it his priority to find something that could prevent soldiers dying from these infection diseases. He worked alongside Josef Klarer and Fritz Mietzsch and tested the function of hundreds of molecules in mice and rabbits.
Eventually in 1932 they found a component in red dye that was called sulfamidochrysoïdine which is broken down by the body to sulfanilamide and protected mice against certain types of streps. They named it Prontosil.
What was really unexpected is that it took them 5 years to publish an article talking about the amazing results Prontosil had had in patients because they didn’t know how/why Prontosil functioned which made them quite cautious.
In 1939 Domagk received the nobel price in physiology or medicine. He couldn’t collect this prize because the Nazi-regime considered the Nobel prize to be anti-German. He finally collected the prize in 1947.
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you want to learn more about infection diseases and the history behind them I’d strongly recommend reading ‘the demon under the microscope’ written by Thomas Hager. The book is about many different scientists.