Gerty Theresa Cori and Carl Ferdinand Cori
Husband and wife team Gerty Theresa Cori and Carl Ferdinand Cori identified the process that muscle cells use to make and store energy — a finding that has helped in treating diabetes.
In a brilliant collaboration Gerty and Carl Cori studied how the human body metabolizes glucose. Their development of the “Cori cycle,” the biochemical process by which the body reversibly converts glucose to glycogen, explained how carbohydrates supply energy to muscles during exercise and how carbohydrates are regenerated and stored until needed again by the muscles. In subsequent decades they made many significant discoveries which clarified carbohydrate metabolism. Their work advanced the understanding of the inter-conversion of sugars and starches and proved particularly useful in the development of treatments for diabetes.
The Coris path-breaking research into the enzyme-catalyzed chemical reactions of carbohydrate metabolism resulted in their sharing the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947 with Bernardo Houssay of Argentina. The Nobel committee cited the Coris “for their discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen” and Houssay “for the discovery of the importance of the anterior pituitary hormone for the metabolism of sugar.” Their son Tom, who was then eleven, remembers his parents “were in high spirits” when they received news of the Nobel award, but they also told a newspaper reporter that they were “pleased, overwhelmed, and too busy to celebrate.”
Visit the National Historic Chemical Landmarks to learn more about the Coris’ research.
Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program