Konrad Emil Bloch: Unraveling the Mysteries of Cholesterol and Fatty Acids

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Konrad Emil Bloch (21 January 1912 – 15 October 2000) was a German American biochemist. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1964.

Life and Career

He was born on 21 January 1912, in Neisse, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire. From 1930 to 1934, he studied chemistry at the Technical University of Munich. He fled to Davos, Switzerland, in 1934 because of Nazi persecution of Jews, and moved to the United States in 1936.

Bloch received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University in 1938. From 1939 to 1946, he taught at Columbia. He worked with Schoenheimer and David Rittenberg in Columbia from 1939 to 1946. He learned about radioisotopes from Schoenheimer and his team.

Bloch collaborated with Rittenberg after Schoenheimer died in 1941 and started working on cholesterol synthesis. In 1942, the two-carbon compound acetic acid was discovered by Bloch and Rittenberg and was the major building block of cholesterol biosynthesis, which is a waxy alcohol found in animal cells.

In 1946, he moved to Chicago and became an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the ‘University of Chicago’. Together with J. Snoke, he also investigated the enzymatic synthesis of tripeptide glutathione, aside from cholesterol biosynthesis. In 1954, he became the Higgins Professor of Biochemistry at Harvard University, a post he held until 1982. Between 1979 and 1984, he was a science professor at the School of Public Health. After retiring from Harvard, he became the Mack and Effie Campbell Tyner Eminent Scholar Chair at Florida State University.

He also worked with Sir John Warcup Cornforth and George Popják in England to figure out how acetic acid molecules combine. Those discoveries helped advance medical research on how cholesterol levels affect atherosclerosis, physiology research, and research on the chemistry of rubbers, terpenes, and other isoprene derivatives. He died on 15 October 2000, in Burlington, Massachusetts, United States.

Award and Legacy

In 1964, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Feodor Lynen.