I. The Roles of Telomeres and Telomerase
II. Telomeres and Telomerase in Human Stem Cells and in Cancer
III. Stress, Telomeres and Telomerase in Humans
Part I: The Roles of Telomeres and Telomerase
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Telomerase, a specialized ribonucleprotein reverse transcriptase, is important for long-term eukaryotic cell proliferation and genomic stability, because it replenishes the DNA at telomeres. Thus, depending on cell type telomerase partially or completely (depending on cell type) counteracts the progressive shortening of telomeres that otherwise occurs. Telomerase is highly active in many human malignancies, and a potential target for anti-cancer approaches. Furthermore, recent collaborative studies have shown the relationship between accelerated telomere shortening and life stress and that low telomerase levels are associated with six prominent risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Blackburn is a leader in the area of telomere and telomerase research. She discovered the molecular nature of telomeres-the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving the genetic information – and discovered the enzyme telomerase, which replenishes telomeres.
Blackburn is currently a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at University of California, San Francisco, where she is working with various cells including human cells, with the goal of understanding telomerase and telomere biology. She is also a Non-Resident Fellow of the Salk Institute.
Throughout her career, Blackburn has been honored by her peers as the recipient of many prestigious awards, including The Albert Lasker Medical Research Award in Basic Medical Research in 2006. In 2007, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most influential People and she was the 2008 North American Laureate for L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science. In 2009, Dr. Blackburn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology.
- Elizabeth Blackburn’s Discovery Talk: Discovery of Telomeric DNA and Telomeras
- Cynthia Kenyon iBioSeminar: Genes that Control Aging
- J. Michael Bishop iBioSeminar: Cancer: The Rise of the Genetic Paradigm
- Jim Haber Short Clip: The Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres
- Mary Beckerle Short Clip: Extracellular Matrix
- Youreka Science: Blackburn & Greider: The Key to Chromosome Immortality
Blackburn, E.H., Greider, C.W., and Szostak, J.W. Telomeres and telomerase: the path from maize, Tetrahymena and yeast to human cancer and aging. Nature Medicine 12:1133-1138 (2006).
Epel, E.S., J. Lin, F.H. Wilhelm, O.M. Wolkowitz, R. Cawthon, N. Adler, C. Dolbier, W.B. Mendes, and E.H. Blackburn. Cell aging in relation to stress arousal and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Psychoneuroendocrinology 31: 277-287 (2006) [Epub: Nov. 17, 2005].
Epel, E.S., E.H. Blackburn, J. Lin, F. Dhabar, N. Adler, J. Morrow, and R. Cawthon. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 101: 17312-15 (2004).
Blackburn, E.H. Switching and signaling at the telomere. Cell. 106: 661-673 (2001). Blackburn, E.H. Telomere states and cell fates. Nature 408 (6808): 53-56 (2000).