Structural Biochemistry/Christian de Duve

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Christian de Duve is a renowned biochemist and cytologist. De Duve was born on October 2, 1917 near London but being of Belgian descent, moved back to Antwerp,Belgium where he was educated by the Jesuits and later went to school at the Catholic University of Leuven. He is most well known for his studies in subcellular biochemistry and cell biology. He was attracted to studying medicine because of the appeal of having an occupation in the field of medicine.

He first started off his career in a laboratory under Professor J.P. Bouckaert, who greatly influenced his later career. De Duve's work in the laboratory was focused on discovering the effects of insulin upon glucose uptake in the body; therefore, by the time he graduated, de Duve's main primary goal was to elucidate insulin's mechanism of action. From that point on, his career was focused on the biochemical study of insulin.

He eventually became a professor in 1951 at Louvain, and headed a small research laboratory to answer the broader questions concerning insulin. In this lab, he accidentally discovered the "latency" of acid phosphatase while investigating carbohydrate metabolism in the liver. He abandoned his insulin focus, and decided to focus on his new discovery instead. Following this new focus in his career, de Duve was coined for discovering lysosomes and peroxisomes, cell organelles where digestive and metabolic processes take place. He found that lysosomes are the cell's digestive system, while peroxisomes are where crucial cell metabolism takes place.

In 1962, de Duve became a professor at Rockefeller University in New York and started another laboratory with the same general research interests as the first laboratory in Belgium. In 1974 he was awarded the Nobel Prize with his colleagues Albert Claude and George Palade for describing the structure and function of organelles in cells. In addition to contributing to the discovery of the structures inside cells, he studied the enzyme activity in rat liver cells using a process called rate-zonal centrifugation. These studies helped pave the way for further discovery into the function of cell structures.


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  1. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1974/duve-autobio.html