The December 2nd from 1987, 34 years ago, passed away Luis Federico Leloir, Argentine doctor, biochemist and pharmacist. He was the third Argentine winner of the Nobel Prize, receiving it in the category of Chemistry, in 1970, for his discovery of sugar nucleotides and their role in carbohydrate biosynthesis.
Luis Federico Leloir He was born in France in 1906, but a trip by his parents to operate on his father for an illness allowed him to get to know Buenos Aires. His father passed away and, in 1908, Leloir returned with his mother to Argentina, where he completed his primary and secondary education and, later, he received his medical degree at the University of Buenos Aires.
When it came to writing his doctoral thesis, it was directed by the Nobel Prize winner Bernardo Houssay. The work was about the adrenal glands and carbohydrate metabolism. This was Leloir’s first approach to the study of sugar metabolism and glycogen synthesis.
In 1936 he traveled to England to study at Cambridge University, where he specialized in enzymology and metabolism of carbohydrates. After returning to Argentina for a few years, he went to the United States where he held the position of associate researcher in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Washington. He also collaborated at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Argentine Nobel Prize
In 1945, back in Argentina, he began to work again with Bernardo Houssay, at the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine. Houssay proposed that he be director of the Biochemical Research Institute-Campomar Foundation, which was founded on November 7, 1947, a position in which he would remain for 40 years. It was in this Institute where he carried out his research that earned him the Nobel Prize.
Luis Federico Leloir showed that nucleotides, molecules that also make up the building blocks of DNA molecules, are crucial when carbohydrates are generated and converted. In 1949 he discovered that the conversion from one type of sugar to another depends on a molecule consisting of a nucleotide and a type of sugar. Later he showed that the generation of carbohydrates is not a reversal of metabolism, as had been previously assumed, but rather processes with different steps.
Leloir discovered the now called “Route of Leloir”, a metabolic pathway from which food is transformed into sugars and serves as fuel for human life. It is a process that, in humans, occurs mainly in the liver.
Leloir and the golf sauce
Interestingly, in addition to his discoveries and contributions to chemistry and medicine, Luis Federico Leloir He created salsa golf in 1920. One version of the story is that the chemist was bored of always accompanying his meals with the same seasonings, so he once asked the waiter for various ingredients, and mixed vinegar, lemon, mayonnaise, ketchup and spices, thus creating the golf sauce.
Those who knew Leloir often describe him as a “simple and austere” person. He was able to make his discoveries despite limited resources, and once he won the Nobel Prize, he kept working with the same humility always.
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Luis Federico Leloir, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry who invented golf sauce