Navigation Links
UCSF scientist receives Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Date:10/5/2009

Molecular biologist Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, 60, of the University of California, San Francisco, today was named to receive the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Blackburn shares the award with Carol W. Greider of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Jack W. Szostak of Harvard Medical School.

The scientists discovered an enzyme that plays a key role in normal cell function, as well as in cell aging and most cancers. The enzyme is called telomerase and it produces tiny units of DNA that seal off the ends of chromosomes, which contain the body's genes. These DNA units named telomeres -- protect the integrity of the genes and maintain chromosomal stability and accurate cell division. They also determine the number of times a cell divides -- and thus determine the lifespan of cells.

Telomerase is pronounced (tel-AH-mer-AZE). Telomere is pronounced (TEEL-oh-mere).

The scientists' research sparked a whole field of inquiry into the possibility that telomerase could be reactivated to treat such age-related diseases as blindness, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases, and deactivated to treat cancer, in which it generally is overactive.

In recent years, Blackburn and colleagues have investigated the possibility that life stress, the perception of life stress and lifestyle behaviors could take a toll on telomerase and telomeres. They have reported several studies with human participants that suggest a correlation. The findings may offer insight, at the cellular level, into the impact of stress on early onset of age-related diseases.

The scientists were named to receive the prize "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the telomerase enzyme," according to the Nobel committee in Stockholm, Sweden.

"Dr. Blackburn's research over the course of more than three decades has revolutionized scientists' understanding of the way in which cells function," said UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH. "Her co-discovery of the telomerase has revealed a mechanism that plays a key role in determining the lifespan of cells, as well as the processes of cell aging and cancers.

"Her generous spirit, curiosity and highly collaborative nature have led her to forge research partnerships that have significantly broadened scientists' capacity to understand the remarkable telomerase enzyme. As a scientist, a colleague, a mentor and a woman in science, she is an inspiration to the nation and the world."

UC President Mark Yudof remarked,"The entire University of California community could not be more proud of Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn. Her path breaking work is yet another reminder of the life-changing contributions UC makes to California and to the world."

Evolution of discovery

The roots of telomere and telomerase research trace back to the 1930s, when geneticists hypothesized that protective caps on chromosomes ensure their ability to propagate during cell division, and prevent them from inappropriately melding with one another.

But it was decades later, between 1975 and 1977, that Blackburn, working as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University with Joseph Gall, discovered the unusual nature of telomeres, with their simple, repeated DNA sequences composing the chromosomes' ends. Their work was published in 1978.

With Szostak, Blackburn established that the DNA repeats stabilize chromosomes. The two also predicted the existence of an enzyme that would add the sequences to the ends of chromosomes, which reside in cells.

In 1985, while a professor at University of California, Berkeley, Blackburn and her then-graduate student Greider reported the discovery of telomerase. Their research showed that, in some organisms, such as the single-celled pond dweller Tetrahymena, telomerase continuously replenishes the chromosome's telomeric tips. In humans, however, researchers including Blackburn and her group showed that telomerase is damped down at certain times in the lives of many types of cells, limiting their ability to self-replenish.

With this discovery, scientists saw the possibility of exploring whether, in humans, the enzyme could be reactivated to prolong cell life to treat age-related diseases, and deactivated to interrupt cancers.


'/>"/>

Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
jobrien@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. The real world of a forensic scientist
2. You must remember this: Scientists develop nasal spray that improves memory
3. Scientists discover clues to what makes human muscle age
4. Stimulus-funded university research addressing issues from climate change to cancer, creating jobs and training a new generation of scientists
5. Scientists join forces to explain HIV spread in Central and East Africa
6. Chinas new Climate Center welcomes citizen scientists
7. Help students think like soil scientists
8. Caltech scientists get detailed glimpse of chemoreceptor architecture in bacterial cells
9. 2 neuroscientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory awarded transformative NIH grants
10. MSU scientist helps map potato genome, hope to improve crop yield
11. Scientists discover how to send insects off the scent of crops
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/24/2016)... IRVINE, Calif. , May 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care ... LMD3251MT  3D medical LCD display is the latest premium product recently added to ... ... ... Sony 3d Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... 9, 2016 Elevay is currently ... expanding freedom for high net worth professionals seeking travel ... globally connected world, there is still no substitute for ... duplicate sealing your deal with a firm handshake. This ... taking advantage of citizenship via investment programs like those ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... LONDON , April 26, 2016 ... a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: ... to integrate the Onegini mobile security platform with ... http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) The integration will ... to access and transact across channels. Using this ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... to announce the launch of their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. ... years, is proud to add Target to its list of well-respected retailers. This ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT has announced the ... biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ("Propellon" or ... of a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors for ... as WDR5 represent an exciting class of therapies, ... medicine for cancer patients. Substantial advances have been ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has signed ... to serve as their official health care provider. ... will provide sponsorship support, athletic training services, and ... volunteers, athletes and families. "We are ... and to bring Houston Methodist quality services and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... MONICA, Calif. , June 23, 2016  The Prostate Cancer Foundation ... pioneer increasingly precise treatments and faster cures for prostate cancer. Members of the ... institutions across 15 countries. Read More About the Class ... ... ...
Breaking Biology Technology: