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

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

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