Mário Corino da Costa Andrade
Biography of Mário Corino da Costa Andrade
Mário Corino da Costa Andrade was born in Moura, a small city near the Spanish border in the Portuguese province of Alentejo, and spent his infancy and childhood in nearby Beja. In 1923 he began his medical studies at the University of Lisbon, graduating in 1929. He then began specialising in neurology and in 1931 he followed professor António Flores' advice to study abroad.
Corino de Andrade travelled to Strasbourg to train in neurology at a clinic headed by the famous neurologist Jean-Alexandre Barré (1880-1867). Much of his time was spent carrying out research on the meninges in the neuropathology laboratory, of which he would later become head. In 1933 he became the first neurological sciences researcher from outside France to win the prestigious Dejerine award.
For a period Corino de Andrade left Strasbourg to train in clinical neurology and neuropathology at Berlin’s Max Planck Institute. Soon after his return to Strasbourg his father's health was deteriorating, and in 1938 he returned to Portugal. His father died shortly after his arrival, and Andrade was forced to forgo projects in France and Germany to support his mother and his sister.
Attempting to restart his career in Portugal, Andrade met closed doors as all the positions in neurosciences were taken. Eventually he got an unpaid position at the Santo António General Hospital in Porto. Here he soon made an impact. From 1939 to 1976, when he retired from his hospital duties, Andrade took Porto from anonymity to a vibrant centre for neurosciences. In 1960 he set up a centre for the study of familial amyloidosis. He also carried out research on Machado-Joseph disease, another hereditary neurological condition.
In 1974, longing for an innovative centre that could ally research with multidisciplinary teaching, Andrade brought together the group in charge of setting up what would become known as the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar – Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences – (in homage to Abel Salazar, 1889-1946, a doctor and close friend of Corino de Andrade). This became host to Porto’s second medical school, as well as to schools of veterinary medicine, biochemistry, water sciences, and a range of graduate studies programmes.
It was while working in the António General Hospital in Porto Corino de Andrade noticed patients presenting with features that were characteristic of a peripheral neuropathy but did not fit any established clinical entity. In 1942 the autopsy of one of his patients revealed the presence of an amyloid substance in several body tissues. This led him to describe a new hereditary amyloid polyneuropathy—particularly prevalent not only in the fishing areas of northern Portugal, but also in coastal regions of other countries, including Japan and Sweden. This familial amyloid polyneuropathy type I (Portuguese) also became known as Corino de Andrade’s disease. It was described by the German neuropathologist Friedrich Wohlwill (1881-1958) in 1942 and is entered on whonamedit.com as Wohlwill-Andrade syndrome.
Andrade’s efforts were widely acknowledged by the international scientific community and attracted leading neurology gurus to Portugal. At a reception in Lisbon, Corino de Andrade met the editor of the British journal Brain, who expressed extreme interest in his research, prompting him to start writing his landmark 1952 paper.
Politically, Corino de Andrade was a bothersome opponent of the repressive fascist regime that ruled Portugal at the time. He belonged to the Movement of Democratic Unity, and advocated the free discussion of ideas and projects that could lead to a fair and developed society. Having tapped his phone, the political police arrested him in 1951, just when he had finished writing his paper. He was jailed on charges of “subversive activities” and having secret links with the Communist Party.
He remained in prison for several months, which slowed the publication of his paper.
He was released after a few months, possibly thanks to the diligence of an influential colleague and of his English second wife, Gwendoline Constance Gething da Costa Andrade (died November 1983, aged 69), a teacher at the British Institute in Porto. They had married in 1948.The paper remains today the most cited Portuguese paper in the scientific literature.
Mario Corino de Costa Andrade died in June 2005, aged 99.
This artcle is mainly based on an obituary in BMJ:
- Tiago Villanueva:
Corino de Andrade: Neurologist who discovered and gave his name to a hereditary form of amyloidosis.
BMJ, London, July 16, 2005, 331: 163.
We also thank thank Sergio Felix for information submitted.