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 pred
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