Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Prize winner and UCSF faculty member
Dr Elizabeth Blackburn's identification of telomerase as an enzyme crucial to the successful replication of chromosomes in cell division is hailed as one of the most important discoveries in the field of molecular genetics.
The capped ends of chromosomes, called telomeres, maintain DNA integrity, which is particularly important during cell division, when mutations might be likely. Telomerase enables telomeres to replicate fully. For more on telomeres, telomerase and cell division see
The Telomere - Function and Synthesis.
"Genetic material can get very messed up if you do not have a special cap on the chromosomes," said Blackburn. She used a shoelace analogy to illustrate "If you don’t have those little tips on both ends of your shoelace, the shoelace frays," she said. Even worse, without telomeres, broken chromosome ends combine with any other end they find and that is not good for the health of the organism. It's as though someone ties your shoe laces together and makes you fall over."*
*Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Copyright © Commonwealth of Australia
Dr. Blackburn's work has already influenced The CR Way through her collaboration on "Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress,"
a study reported worldwide and showing for the first time that stress may accelerate aging. For more about how Dr. Blackburn and colleagues discovered telomeres and how they work read "The Ends Have Arrived
" by VA Zakian.