Some of us who were born in the middle of Europe between World Wars I and II had to face quite a few unusual challenges that we all met in different ways. I was born and raised in Prague, Czechoslovakia, a country at the time of my birth that was governed by a Western style of democracy, which was later destroyed by the occupation by Nazi Germany and subsequently by the takeover by the equally cruel Communists. Life required special means of adaptation to the changing living conditions and a great deal of luck to survive. After graduating from the School of Technology, I started working in the Department of Medicine at Charles University in Prague as a clinical chemist in endocrinology. This work was followed with training in basic biochemistry and the study of metabolic changes in stress. This rather diversified research, due to my changing of workplaces, led to the findings that diet can change enzymatic activity of liver tryptophan oxygenase. For a short time I worked on the metabolism of cyclic AMP in , and at the age of 41, I made a risky move and succeeded in escaping with my family from the “paradise of communism.” The reasons for this decision will become clear. After settling in the United States, I worked on the mechanism of activation of liver tryptophan oxygenase by cyclic AMP and eventually moved to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. There I initially worked on the mechanism of action of steroid hormones and finally on the molecular mechanism of action of retinoids, retinol, and retinoic acid. Also in cooperation with neonatologists, I initiated studies on prematurely born human neonates which led to successful supplementation of these patients with vitamin A. The work from my laboratory and my coworkers eventually became recognized.

“Who does not remember the past, is condemned to repeat it.”



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  • Article Type: Review Article
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