What does former Washington University biochemist Gerty Cori, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine, have in common with chemist Linus Pauling, astronomer Edwin Hubble and physicist John Bardeen? The four American scientists have been honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a set of postage stamps recognizing their achievements.
The stamp honoring one of Washington University’s most noted Nobel Laureates was presented March 17, 2008 at Moore Auditorium.
Cori, who died in 1957 at age 61, collaborated with her husband Carl to decipher how carbohydrates are processed in the body. Through years of work at Washington University, the pair discovered that glycogen, the storage form of sugar, is broken down in the liver to a sugar derivative, known as the Cori ester. They went on to show that glucose, a sugar arising from this process, is transported back to the muscle to provide energy and lactic acid. The lactic acid is then transported back to the liver to synthesize more glucose in a process now called the Cori cycle.
The Cori’s discoveries formed the formed the foundation for understanding how cells use food and convert it to energy and how diabetes and other metabolic diseases develop. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1947.
Cori’s stamp features her portrait and the chemical formula she discovered. One interesting note: the stamp includes an error in the chemical formula for the Cori ester.