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Luis F. Leloir
Awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1970

 

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By: Edward Romeo Parker
Luis Federico Leloir was a biochemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1970. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry because he did research and discovered how lactose is formed and chemically broken down in the body. Leloir is also credited with discovering how glycogen, which is stored in the liver, is chemically broken down and formed in the body.

        Luis F. Leloir is of Argentinean descent.  Luis was born on September 6, 1906 in Paris, France, however he and his parents returned to Buenos Aires when he was only two years old. He completed the studies for a medical degree from University of Buenos Aires in 1932. Luis practiced medicine at the University Hospital for two years after graduating, but found it somewhat unfulfilling, because he felt that advancements in medicine were not moving fast enough to help many of his patients

He worked in the laboratory of Bernardo Houssay, he while was in graduate school. While there he researched how the adrenal glands metabolize carbohydrates. Leloir’s colleagues admonished him to study abroad. In 1936 he went to England, there he studied at Cambridge University.  While studying in England, he also worked at the Biochemical Laboratory on campus.

 While in England, Luis partnered up with several other scientists to research several projects. He studied how succinic acid dehydrogenase is effected by pyrophosphate and cyanide, with scientist Malcolm Dixon. Leloir used liver slices to research ketogenesis along with scientist Norman Edson. And he and scientist David Green collaborated to research the properties of B-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase and ways to purify it.

After his work at Cambridge University, Luis returned home to Buenos Aires. Once home he began working with scientist J. M. Munoz and they are credited with making a major discovery while researching how the liver oxidizes fatty acids. Before their research, scientist believed that oxidation could not occur in cells that were not intact. However, Leloir and Munoz were able to make an active cell free system. He also worked with several scientist to research the formation of angiotensin and how renal hypertension occurs in the body.

Leloir moved to the United States in 1944. He worked at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. While there he worked with two well-known scientists who were written about in the Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic magazine, Carl and Gerty Cori. Luis also studied aminotransferases and how to purify them at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.

In 1970, Luis Leloir returned home to Argentina and founded the Institute of Biochemical Research in Buenos Aires. There he began working on a project, with several other scientist, studying how galactose metabolizes.  This research project lead to Luis discovering sugar nucleotides. Leloir realized early in his research that he had indeed found the pathway to help other scientist discover many more metabolic reactions, because nucleotides are the key components of DNA. Therefore, the 1970 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to him for his hard work on sugar nucleotides and for what he contributed to biochemistry in general.