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:http://www.ucsf.edu/nobel/2009/blackburn/
Images of Elizabeth Blackburn and of telomeres can be downloaded:
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