Navigation Links
UCSF Scientist Receives Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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.

San Francisco, CA (Vocus) October 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.

Blackburn joined the UCSF faculty in 1990 and is the Morris Herzstein Endowed Chair in Biology and Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

She is the fourth UCSF scientist to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

A native of Australia, Blackburn has lived in the United States since 1975, becoming a naturalized citizen in September 2003. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, John Sedat, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF. They have a son, Benjamin.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

More Information is Available at:

Images Available
Images of Elizabeth Blackburn and of telomeres can be downloaded:

Image #1 - Elizabeth Blackburn - head shot

Image #2 - Elizabeth Blackburn -- in the lab

Image #3 - Elizabeth Blackburn - with student at lab bench

Image #4 - Damaged telomeres in yeast cell that was unable to divide.

Image #5 - Damaged telomeres in pond microorganism cell trying, unsuccessfully, to divide.

For further information, including news conference details and downloadable photos:

Jennifer O'Brien (415) 476-2557
E-mail: jobrien (at)


Read the full story at

Source: PRWeb
Copyright©2009 Vocus, Inc.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. New prion protein discovered by Canadian scientists may offer insight into mad cow disease
2. Scientists Probe Sepsis Deadly Secrets
3. Scientists puzzled by severe allergic reaction to cancer drug in the middle Southern US
4. Scientists Develop Natural Protection for Stored Foods
5. Scientists detect presence of marburg virus in african fruit bats
6. Scientists Spot Brains Free Will Center
7. Scientists ID Likely Culprit in Popcorn Lung
8. Scientists explain how insulin secreting cells maintain their glucose sensitivity
9. Scripps Research scientists shed new light on how antibodies fight HIV
10. Scientists, physicians present latest findings in personalized cancer treatment and prevention
11. Scientists demonstate link between genetic variant and effectiveness of smoking cessation meds
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... Experts from the ... AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting June 26-28, 2016, at the Hynes Convention Center in ... topics including advance care planning, healthcare costs and patient and family engagement. , ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... 2016 , ... As a lifelong Southern Californian, Dr. Omkar Marathe earned his ... David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He trained in Internal Medicine at Scripps ... in hematology/oncology at the UCLA-Olive View-Cedars Sinai program where he had the opportunity to ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Michigan (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... Those ... deal with these feelings, many turn to unhealthy avenues, such as drug or alcohol ... of Marne, Michigan, has released tools for healthy coping following a traumatic event. , ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Dr. Amanda Cheng, an ... Cheng has extensive experience with all areas of orthodontics, including robotic Suresmile technology, ... , Micro-osteoperforation is a revolutionary adjunct to orthodontic treatment. It can be ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... York, NY (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 ... ... publication Haute Living, is proud to recognize Dr. Barry M. Weintraub as a ... that “the most beautiful women in the world, and the most handsome men, ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 , ... Thursday, July 7, 2016 , , , , LOCATION: , ... , , , , EXPERT PANELISTS:  , , , Frost ... Industry Analyst, Christi Bird; Senior Industry Analyst, Divyaa Ravishankar and Unmesh ... The global pharmaceutical industry is witnessing an exceptional era. Several ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Revolutionary technology includes multi-speaker listening to conquer ... in advanced audiology and hearing aid technology, has today ... world,s first internet connected hearing aid that opens up ...      (Photo: ) , ... , TwinLink™ - the first dual communication ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Research and ... Procedure Volumes: Global Analysis (United States, China, Japan, Brazil, ... report to their offering. ... for healthcare business planners, provides surgical procedure volume data ... trends with an in-depth analysis of growth drivers and ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: