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Dr. Gerty Theresa Cori, née Radnitz, (August 15, 1896 – October 26, 1957) was an American biochemist born in Prague (Austrian Empire, now Czech Republic) who, together with her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori and Argentine physiologist Bernardo Houssay, received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947 for their discovery of how glycogen (animal starch) — a derivative of glucose — is broken down and resynthesized in the body, for use as a store and source of energy. In 2004, both were designated an ACS National Historical Chemical Landmark in recognition of their work that elucidated carbohydrate metabolism.
Born into a Jewish family, she was tutored at home before enrolling in a Lyceum for girls. Her uncle, a professor of pediatrics, encouraged her to attend medical school, and she was admitted to the German Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague in 1914. At that time there were only a few female students. While studying she met Carl Cori; they married in 1920 following graduation, and she converted to Catholicism. In 1922 they both immigrated to the United States to pursue medical research at the "State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases" (now the Roswell Park Cancer Institute) in Buffalo, New York. In 1928, they became naturalized citizens of the United States.
While at Roswell they were discouraged from working together, but did so anyway, devoting their efforts to how energy is produced and transmitted in the human body. Specializing in biochemistry, they began studying how sugar glucose is metabolized. The Coris published fifty papers jointly while at Roswell, with either researcher's name appearing first, depending on who had done the bulk of the research for a given paper. Gerty Cori also published eleven articles as single author. In 1929, they proposed the theory that bears their name and later won them a Nobel Prize. The Cori cycle is their explanation for the movement of energy in the body – from muscle, to the liver, and back to muscle.
The Coris left Roswell after publishing their work on carbohydrate metabolism. A number of universities offered Carl a position but refused to hire Gerty. They moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1931, where Carl had been offered the chair of the pharmacology department at Washington University School of Medicine. Despite her research, Gerty was only offered a position as a research assistant. She was promoted to a full professor when Carl was made head of the biochemistry department in 1947, a post she held until her death in 1957.
Awards and recognitions
Cori was honored by the release of a US Postal Service stamp on March 6, 2008. The 41-cent stamp was reported by the Associated Press to have a printing error in the chemical formula for glucose-1-phosphate (Cori ester) shown in the background. The stamp is being distributed despite the error. Her description reads: "Biochemist Gerty Cori (1896-1957), in collaboration with her husband, Carl, made important discoveries -- including a new derviative of glucose -- that elucidated the steps of carbohydrate metabolism and contributed to the understanding and treatment of diabetes and other metabolic diseases. In 1947, the couple was award a half share of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine." The other scientists on the "American Scientists" sheet include Linus Pauling, chemist, Edwin Hubble, astronomer, and John Bardeen, physicist.
- Garvan-Olin Medal, 1948
- National Library of Medicine, Dr. Gerty Theresa Cori Biography
- Stamp Honoring Biochemist Bears Error
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