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Gerty Cori, new star of the "Women in Science" series

The Science Museum of the University of Navarra has produced a new video to highlight the work of this scientist who discovered the glycogen cycle.

26 | 01 | 2021

The Science Museum of the University of Navarra continues with the video collection "Women in Science", an animated series that includes the biography of relevant scientists in their field but who are unknown to the general public. On this occasion the protagonist is Gerty Cori, a scientist who discovered the glycogen cycle, a metabolic pathway that consists of the cyclic circulation of glucose and lactate between the muscle and the liver.

Gertrude Theresa Radnitz (1896-1957) received her doctorate at the Medical School of the German University of Prague in 1920 and, a year later, moved to Vienna where she married her class colleague Carl Cori. Together they began a degree program staff and professional relationship that made them inseparable.

The Cori's had to emigrate to the United States in 1922 due to the lack of professional opportunities in Europe because of the economic scourge of World War I. Gerty's beginnings at Washington University (St. Louis) were hard. Gerty's beginnings at Washington University (St. Louis) were hard: she had an assistant position at research with a salary five times less than that of her husband. Her tenacity led her in 1947 to obtain her place professorship at the University.

Among the most important contributions to science, Cori defined the importance of glycogen, characterized for the first time its metabolism and that of glucose in vivo, their famous Cori cycle. Thanks to these and other findings, their laboratory was an experimental reference letter of Biochemistry in the 1940s and 1950s. Important researchers -some of them Nobel Prize winners- such as Arthur Kornberg, Severo Ochoa, Luis Leloir, Earl Sutherland, Christian de Duve and Edwin G. Krebs passed through his laboratory .

Gerty Cori was the first woman to win the award Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine - in 1947 together with her husband Carl Cori and Bernardo A. Houssay - and the third woman to win a Nobel Prize in Science, after Marie Curie and her daughter Irene. Gerty Cori's work, much of it carried out jointly with her husband, contributed to the birth of a new concept in biomedical research : genetic diseases of metabolism.

The Cori cycle

The pain and cramps experienced by the human body after intense muscular activity are related to the Cori cycle, as it responds to the accumulation of lactate within the muscle.

This cycle is of great physiological importance, because it plays a fundamental role in the maintenance of glycemia, has vital implications in acid-base balance and represents a way of redistributing muscle glycogen, since it releases glucose in the form of lactate. Knowing this cycle is not only useful to understand why stiffness arises, but there are several metabolic and energetic diseases related to deficiencies in the enzymes involved in the Cori cycle.

The Cori cycle is named after Gerty Cori, a great scientist who, together with her husband Carl Cori, revolutionized research in biomedicine by setting the biochemical and molecular instructions in physiology and pathology.

The project of videos "Women in Science" is supported by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) / Ministry of Science and Innovation and is part of the Science Museum's STEM strategy to make the teaching of subjects related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics more attractive, especially among girls and young women.