(1896–1984) Czech–American biochemist
Cori, who was born in the Czech capital of Prague, was educated at the gymnasium in Trieste, where his father was director of the Marine Biological Station, and at the University of Prague Medical School. He graduated in 1920, the year he married Gerty Radnitz, a fellow student who was to become his collaborator until her death in 1957. The Coris moved to America in 1922, taking up an appointment at the New York State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases in Buffalo. In 1931 they both transferred to the Washington University Medical School, where Cori was successively professor of pharmacology and of biochemistry until his retirement in 1966.
The great French physiologist Claude Bernard had shown as long ago as 1850 that glucose is converted in the body into the complex carbohydrate glycogen. This is stored in the liver and muscle, ready to be converted back into glucose as the body needs a further energy supply. Just what steps are involved in this process was the fundamental problem the Coris began to tackle in the mid 1930s.
The first clue came in 1935, when they discovered an unknown compound in minced frog muscle. This was glucose-1-phosphate, in which the phosphate molecule is joined to the glucose 6-carbon ring at the standard position (1). It was next established that when this new compound, or Cori ester as it was soon called, was added to a frog or rabbit muscle extract, it was converted rapidly to glucose-6-phosphate by an enzyme that was named phosphoglucomutase, a process that was reversible. As only glucose itself can enter the cells of the body, glucose-6-phosphate must be converted to glucose by the enzyme phosphatase.
Although the actual pathway of glycolysis is much more detailed and took several years to elucidate, the value of the Coris' work is undeniable. Above all they pointed the way to the crucial role of phosphates in the provision of cellular energy, the details of which were soon to be worked out by Fritz Lipmann.
For their work the Coris shared the 1947 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine with Bernardo Houssay.
Subjects: Science and Mathematics.