Carl & Gerty Cori Change the Face of Medicine

In brilliant collaboration, Carl and Gerty Cori studied how the body metabolizes glucose and advanced the understanding of how the body produces and stores energy. Their findings were particularly useful in the development of treatments for diabetes. They were awarded the Noble Prize 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.

cori cycleThe pair were interested in how the body utilizes energy. The couple spent more than three decades exploring how the human body metabolizes glucose. It was known in the 1920s that faulty sugar metabolism could lead to diabetes, and it was also known that insulin kept the disease in check.

The effect of insulin on blood sugar levels had been observed, but scientists did not understand the biochemical mechanism behind insulin’s effect or how carbohydrates were metabolized. In 1929, the couple described what is now known as the Cori cycle; an important part of metabolism. To put it simply, lactic acid forms when we use our muscles, which is then converted into glycogen in the liver. Glycogen, in turn, is converted into glucose, which is absorbed by muscle cells.

The Cori Cycle

cori cycleThe Cori Cycle refers to the metabolic pathway in which lactate produced by anaerobic glycolysis in the muscles moves via the blood stream to the liver where it it is converted to blood glucose and glycogen. High intensity exercise will mostly get it’s energy or ATP from the pathway of the glycolitic system.  Less intense activity will receive its energy or ATP from the aerobic pathway utilizing the Krebs cycle.

When utilizing the glycolitic system, cycle after cycle, lactate will start to build up.  Lactate from the glycolitic system will diffuse from the muscles into the bloodstream.  It will then be transported into the liver.  In the liver it is converted from lactate back to pyruvate back to glucose, which is then available to the muscles again for energy, this is called gluconeogenesis.  The whole process is called the Cori Cycle.

The more you train with high intensity exercise, the more capable the enzymes and transporters become that are needed for the Cori Cycle.  Your liver gets better at using the lactate, not more efficient (it still needs the same amount of ATP to run the Cori Cycle) but it will do the cycle faster.

Gerty Cori Biography

carl & gerty cori Gerty Radnitz was born in Prague in what was then Austria-Hungary. She received her PhD in medicine from the German University of Prague’s Medical School in 1920. It was here that she met fellow classmate, Carl Ferdinand Cori, whom she married later that same year.

The couple moved to Buffalo, New York in 1922 and began researching metabolic mechanisms. As a woman, Gerty Cori was employed on much less favorable terms than her husband and encountered other forms of gender discrimination throughout her career.

The couple moved to Washington University in St. Louis in 1931 after both were offered positions there. When the Coris were hired at Washington University, she received one-tenth Carl’s salary, even though they were equal partners in the laboratory.

Gerty and her husband continued to investigate how glycogen is broken down into glucose and in 1939 were able to both identify the enzyme that initiates the decomposition and also to use the process to create glycogen in a test tube.

She became full professor in 1947, the same year that she and Carl were awarded the Nobel Prize “for their discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen.” She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Science.

Around this time Gerty was diagnosed with myelosclerosis, a disease of the bone marrow. She died in 1957 at the age of 61.

Bring it Home

Try this hands-on lab from Amy Brown Science to discover The Use of Glucose in Cellular Respiration

Enjoy the Carl and Gerty Cori and Carbohydrate Metabolism commemorative booklet produced by the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program of the American Chemical Society in 2004.

Read about the dip-and-read test strips developed by Helen Free and her husband, Al. Originally designed to test for glucose in urine, the test strips were such an advance that researchers have since combined 10 urine tests to check for ailments like liver failure, urinary tract infections, and others—onto one plastic stick.

Learn more about our digestive system with these hands-on enzyme labs.

Investigate What Types of Food Contain Starch and Protein?

Building Macromolecule is a paper-scissors-tape activity used to help students envision the process of synthesis, building macromolecules out of smaller subunits.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of August? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in August to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

 

Rosalind Franklin: The Unsung Hero of DNA Structure

Rosalind Franklin, a scientist whose role in the discovery of DNA structure in 1953 has been forgotten by many, has a chance to be immortalized in a feature film. Throughout her career she faced sexism at nearly every turn. She also happened to be Jewish, which heightened the prejudice against her. Her name may soon be on the tips of everyone’s tongue and her role in the discovery of DNA Structure known to all. Entertainment One has acquired the script to Exposure, her life story.

In 1962 James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins jointly received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their 1953 determination of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Rosalind Franklin (1920–1958), a colleague of Wilkins, died of cancer at the age of 37, and was thereby not equally honored because the Nobel Prize can only be shared by three scientists. It was her work in X-ray crystallography, however, that proved critical to the correct solution to DNA structure.

Unsung Hero of DNA Structure @EvaVarga.netWhat is DNA?  

DNA is the material embedded in the cells of all living organisms that carries the genetic coding that determines how a living thing will look and function. It is found in the nucleus of each cell and is unique to every individual – whether human, mountain lion, or butterfly. Its full name is deoxyribonucleic acid, which can be complicated to say, so we usually refer to it as DNA for short.

DNA is so tiny that it can not be seen unless we use a very powerful microscope. If we could see it we would see that it looks like a twisted ladder, which scientist refer to as the double helix. Each rung or step on the DNA ladder is composed of two letters.

There are only 4 letters — A,T,G, and C — and each has a unique puzzle-like shape. This means that A and T fit together to form a rung on the ladder and G and C fit together to form another rung on the ladder.

As we read the DNA ladder, the letters combine to form 3-letter words called codons. Then, these codons combine to form sentences that we call genes. These genes are the basis for your chromosomes, which give your body a blueprint or set of instructions for life.

Every human has 23 pairs of these DNA chromosomes that determine what we look like and how to perform. We get one set of chromosomes from our mother and one set from our father. Our chromosomes determine whether our eyes will be blue or brown, what color our skin and hair will be, whether we will be a boy or girl and so much more.

The Structure of DNA @EvaVarga.net

Building a Cardboard Safari DNA Double Helix Puzzle

Discovering DNA Structure

Inspired by Linus Pauling’s success in working with molecular models, James Watson and Francis Crick rapidly put together several models of DNA and attempted to incorporate all the evidence they could gather. Franklin’s excellent X-ray photographs, to which they had gained access without her permission, were critical to the correct solution. Along with Wilkins, Franklin’s partner, the four scientists announced the structure of DNA in articles that appeared together in the same issue of Nature.

After the publication, they moved on to different projects. Franklin went to Birkbeck College, London. Before her untimely death from cancer, she made important contributions to the X-ray crystallographic analysis of the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus, a landmark in the field. By the end of her life, she had become friends with Francis Crick and his wife and had moved her laboratory to Cambridge, where she undertook work on the poliovirus.

Biography

Rosalind Franklin @EvaVarga.netRosalind Franklin was born July 25, 1920 to a Jewish family in London, England. Educated at private schools in London, she studied natural sciences at Newnham College, Cambridge, from where she graduated in 1941. She joined the University of Cambridge where she earned a research fellowship in a physical chemistry laboratory under Ronald George Wreyford Norrish. The British Coal Utilisation Research Association offered her a research position in 1942, and started her work on coals. This helped her earn a PhD in 1945.

In 1947, she went to Paris as a chercheur (post-doctoral researcher) under Jacques Mering at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat, where she became an accomplished X-ray crystallographer. She returned to London in 1951 and became a research associate at King’s College. She was compelled to move to Birkbeck College after two years, however, owing to disagreeable clashes with her director and more so with her colleague Maurice Wilkins. At Birkbeck, J. D. Bernal, chair of the physics department, offered her a separate research team. She died on April 16, 1958 at the age of 37 of ovarian cancer.

Bring it Home

Build a model of the DNA Double Helix with the Cardboard Safari Puzzle

Create a model of DNA with colorful Wiki-Sticks

Extract DNA from Strawberries in this great lab from Marci at the Homeschool Scientist

Explore the DNA Teaching Resources from Karyn at Teach Beside Me

Challenge your students with this Transcription / Translation Lab Activity 

Download the DNA & RNA Protein Synthesis Interactive Notebook Resources from Science with Amy

Make these cool DNA Sequence Bracelets

Watch this fabulous NOVA documentary on PBS, The Secret of Photo 51

Science Milestones

You may also be interested in learning about other inventors and scientists who have made an impact in our lives.

The bloggers of the iHomeschool Network have teamed up to create fun and original unit studies on fascinating people who were born in July.

Science Milestones: Linus Pauling & Molecular Medicine

As an Oregon State University alum, Linus Pauling’s memory invokes a sense of pride. Not only was he one of the greatest scientists of our modern age, but he was also a much respected and beloved defender of civil liberties and health issues.

My father, when I had just about reached my ninth birthday, wrote a letter to the Portland Oregonian, asking for advice as to what books to get for me. He said that I seemed to have an unusual interest in reading, especially history. Then he went on to say, “And don’t say the Bible and Darwin’s Origin of Species, because he has already read them.”

linuspauling

Biography

Linus Carl Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon, on February 28, 1901. He received his early education in Oregon, finishing in 1922 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Oregon Agricultural College in Corvallis — now Oregon State University. Already he was drawn to the challenge of how and why particular atoms form bonds with each other to create molecules with unique structures.

LinusPaulingFor postgraduate study Pauling went to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which provided a stipend for research and teaching. In 1925 he received a Ph.D. in chemistry and mathematical physics. Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, in 1926-27 he studied in Europe with physicists who were exploring the implications of quantum mechanics for atomic structure. In this revolutionary new field Pauling found a physical and mathematical framework for his own future theories regarding molecular structure and its correlation with chemical properties and function.

Pauling discovered that in many cases the type of bonding — whether ionic or covalent (formed by a sharing of electrons between bonded atoms) — could be determined from a substance’s magnetic properties. To explain covalent bonding, Pauling introduced two major new concepts, based on quantum mechanics: bond-orbital hybridization and bond resonance.

Pauling originated the concept of molecular disease. In 1945, while hearing a physician describe sickle cell anemia, he instantly surmised that it might be caused by a defect in the red blood cell’s hemoglobin. After three years of painstaking research, he and his associate Dr. Harvey Itano identified this prevalent disease as molecular in origin — caused by a genetically transmitted abnormality in the hemoglobin molecule.

“I have always liked working in some scientific direction that nobody else is working in.”

Pauling’s description of this first molecular disease initiated a search for many more such disorders. The new idea quickly became immensely important in medicine and is now the main focus of human genome research. Thus the medical specialties of hematology, serology, immunology, applied genetics, and pathology owe much to Pauling’s contributions, which were made long before his intense interest in the promise of nutritional therapy became widely known.

In 1954 Linus Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Pauling put his elevated new position as a Nobel laureate to good effect in his growing social activism. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he protested vehemently against atmospheric nuclear testing.

Pauling’s antitesting campaign was vindicated when a treaty was signed by the three nuclear powers — the U.S., Great Britain, and the U.S.S.R. On October 10, 1963, the day on which the limited test ban went into effect, it was announced that Linus Pauling would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1962.

Linus Pauling is the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes and one of only four individuals to have won more than one Nobel Prize (the others being Marie Curie, John Bardeen, and Frederick Sanger). Also of note, he and Marie Curie are the only people to be awarded Nobel Prizes in different fields.

Bring it Home

Science Milestones: Marie Curie

During the 19th century scientists knew little about what went on inside an atom. However, by the end of the century there were startling new ideas about the structure of the atom resulting from the discoveries of X-rays, radioactivity, and the electron. Marie Curie was amongst the leaders whose discoveries of radioactivity led to a new understanding of atomic structure.

mariecurie

In 1896 Henri Becquerel was using naturally fluorescent minerals to study the properties of x-rays, which had been discovered the previous year by Wilhelm Roentgen. Becquerel exposed potassium uranyl sulfate to sunlight and then placed it on photographic plates wrapped in black paper, believing that the uranium absorbed the sun’s energy and then emitted it as x-rays.

Believing his experiment had failed due to the inclement weather in Paris, he decided to develop his photographic plates anyway. To his surprise, the images were strong and clear, proving that the uranium emitted radiation without an external source of energy such as the sun. Becquerel had discovered radioactivity.

“I am amongst those who think science has great beauty.”

The term radioactivity was actually coined by Marie Curie, who together with her husband Pierre, began investigating the phenomenon recently discovered by Becquerel. The Curies extracted uranium from ore and to their surprise, found that the leftover ore showed more activity than the pure uranium. They concluded that the ore contained other radioactive elements. This led to the discoveries of the elements polonium and radium. It took four more years of processing tons of ore to isolate enough of each element to determine their chemical properties.

Biography

MarieCurie

Maria Sklodowska was born in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, the daughter of a school teacher.  As a young girl, Manya (as she was affectionately called)  received a general education in local schools and some scientific training from her father. She was a brilliant student and dreamed of studying at the Sorbonne in Paris but it took eight years of saving before she could afford to go. Despite very poor living conditions and a lack of French she graduated in physics in 1893 and mathematics in 1894.

“All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child.”

She met Pierre Curie, Professor in the School of Physics in 1894 and in the following year they were married. Her early researches, together with her husband, were often performed under poor laboratory conditions. The discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel in 1896 inspired the Curies in their research which led to the isolation of polonium, named after the country of Marie’s birth.

Pierre was tragically killed in 1906, leaving Marie with two daughters; Irène aged 9 and Eve aged 2. Determined to continue their work, Marie became the first ever woman professor at the Sorbonne and as well as teaching, she discovered how to isolate radium in metallic form. In 1911 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of the elements radium and polonium.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”

During World War I, she established a front-line X-ray service in the battlefields of Belgium and France, tirelessly fundraising, training staff, and driving the X-ray vans. After the war, Marie continued her research and to raise funds for a hospital and laboratory devoted to radiology. She eventually died in 1934 from the cumulative effects of radiation exposure.
marie_curie

My daughter is pictured here giving a living history performance as Madame Curie.

Bring it Home

  • Research Marie Curie and her life’s work and create a living history presentation to present to others.
  • Watch the BrainPop video on Marie Curie to learn about her early days, from her humble beginnings in Poland, to her professorship at the Sorbonne.
  • Visit the EPA‘s Radiation Protection Pages to learn about radiation and radiation protection.
  • Write a brief story that describes what Marie Curie might have felt when she realized that she had discovered a new element.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Explore additional November Birthday lessons and unit studies with iHomeschool Network bloggers.

Science Milestones: The Founder of the Nobel Prize

For more than 100 years, the Nobel Prizes have recognized the finest in human achievements, from literature and science to the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” according to the last will and testament of founder Alfred Nobel.

nobel

As we traveled through Scandinavia in 2011, we came upon numerous buildings and monuments that began to unfold the story of the Nobel Prize (like the Oslo City Hall, pictured above, where the Nobel Prize Ceremony takes place).  We also came to discover that the life of Alfred Nobel is a very interesting story.

Biography

Alfred_NobelAlfred Bernhard Nobel was born in Stockholm on 21 October 1833. His father, an inventor and engineer who struggled financially for much of his life, was forced to declare bankruptcy. Immanuel left Sweden and began working in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he impressed the czar with one of his inventions, submerged explosive mines that could thwart a naval invasion. In 1842, when his father was financially stable, Alfred moved with his family to St. Petersburg.

“Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.”

 

Alfred did not attend school but received private tutoring from good teachers. He was quick to master four foreign languages, and showed great ability in the natural sciences, especially chemistry.

Most researchers at the time considered nitroglycerine (discovered by Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero in 1847) too unsafe to have any practical use. The Nobel family, however, investigated its potential for commercial and industrial uses. Not surprising, their inquiries had tragic results.

“A recluse without books and ink is already in life a dead man.”

 

Seeking a safe way to use the oily liquid, in 1867 Alfred Nobel found that by mixing nitroglycerin with diatomaceous earth, the resulting compound was a stable paste that could be shaped into short sticks that mining companies might use to blast through rock. Nobel patented this invention as “dynamite,” from the Greek word dunamis, or “power.”

The invention of dynamite revolutionized the mining, construction and demolition industries. Railroad companies could now safety blast through mountains, opening up vast stretches of the Earth’s surface to exploration and commerce. As a result, Nobel, who eventually garnered 355 patents on his many inventions, became incredibly wealthy.

When Alfred’s brother Ludvig died in 1888, some journalistic error printed Alfred’s obituary instead. The obituary was widely published and he quickly learned how others perceived him. One French newspaper wrote “Le marchand de la mort est mort,” or “the merchant of death is dead.” The obituary went on to describe Nobel as a man “who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”

“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.”

Nobel was reportedly stunned by what he read, and as a result became determined to do something to improve his legacy. One year before he died in 1896, Nobel signed his last will and testament, which set aside the majority of his vast estate to establish the five Nobel Prizes, including one awarded for the pursuit of peace.

Not everybody was pleased with this. His will was opposed by his relatives and questioned by authorities in various countries. It took four years for his executors to convince all parties to follow Alfred’s wishes. In 1901, the first Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature were first awarded in Stockholm, Sweden and the Peace Prize in Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway.

Bring it Home

On a related note, the Nobel Peace Prize medallion was designed by Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. In my post Gustav Vigeland: Artist & Visionary, I share his life story and a complimentary art lesson.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Explore additional October Birthday lessons and unit studies with iHomeschool Network bloggers.