Luis Federico Leloir

Luis Federico Leloir
(1906 - 1987)

Biochemist Luis Frederico Leloir became the first Argentinean to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1970. His work resulted in a clear explanation of the processes involved in the biosynthesis of sugars and the storage of carbohydrate glycogen in mammals.

Leloir was born in Paris on September 6, 1906 of Argentine parents and lived in Buenos Aires from age two. He earned an MD in 1932 from the University of Buenos Aires and remained there for two more years, working under Bernardo A. Houssay. Leloir spent 1936-1937 in the Biochemical Laboratory of Cambridge University, gaining experience in the field of fatty acid metabolism. He rejoined Houssay's group upon his return to Buenos Aires, where he continued his research. In 1943, Juan Peron forced Houssay's research institute to close, and Leloir went to the United States and worked in Carl and Gerty Cori's research group at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and at Columbia University. He returned to Buenos Aires in 1946 to head a private biochemical research laboratory.

In 1947 he obtained financial support to set up the Institute for Biochemical Research, Buenos Aires, where he began research on the formation and breakdown of lactose, or milk sugar, in the body. That work ultimately led to his discovery of sugar nucleotides, which are key elements in the processes by which sugars stored in the body are converted into energy. He also investigated the formation and utilization of glycogen and discovered certain liver enzymes that are involved in its synthesis from glucose.

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