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Krebs, Sir Hans Adolf

cycle energy acid glucose

(1900–81) German–British biochemist: discovered energy-generating cycle in living cells.

Krebs followed his father in studying medicine and, after the German practice of the time, did so at five universities; he then spent 4 years working in Berlin on biochemical problems . The latter had developed a method for studying metabolic reactions by using thin tissue slices and measuring their gas exchange manometrically, and Krebs used and improved this technique in 1932 to show how, in the liver of most animals, amino acids lose nitrogen to give urea in a process now known as the ornithine cycle.

The next year he escaped from Germany to England and, after a short period in Cambridge, settled in Sheffield for 20 years; here most of his work was done, notably his work on the Krebs cycle (also known as the citric acid or tricarboxylic acid cycle). This cycle is the central energy-generating process in cells of most kinds, occurs in their mitochondria and generates energy for the entire organism. It was already known that foods in general are broken down to glucose and then to pyruvic acid; but those stages yield little energy. Krebs showed how the glucose is broken down in a cycle of changes to give carbon dioxide, water and energy. For this fundamental study of metabolism, Krebs shared a Nobel Prize in 1953 with F Lipmann (1899–1986), who worked out important details of the cycle.

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