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Elizabeth Blackburn


The Salk Institute for Biological Studies




The Salk Institute for Biological Studies




75 years


Nobel Prize - Elizabeth Blackburn





What makes Elizabeth Blackburn a Global Shaker?

Elizabeth Helen Blackburn is an Australian-American Nobel laureate and former President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She is a leading expert on the relationship between brain waves and the process of ageing.

Alongside two colleagues Jack Szostak and Carol Greider, Elizabeth discovered telomerase which was proclaimed ‘the fountain of youth’ by the media and earned the trio the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009.

This breakthrough was uncovered while Elizabeth was working as a biological researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, where she studied the telomere. Telomerase are enzymes at the end of chromosomes that serve as a protective cap and allow DNA strands to split without damage during cell division as bodies grow/age.

Scientists had long suspected the presence of these caps but it wasn’t until Elizabeth and co were investigating “pond-scum” or Tetrahymena in 1980 that she discovered that the DNA sequence CCCCAA was repeated several times at the ends of the chromosomes. By grafting this sequence to the end of vulnerable mini-chromosomes in yeast they were able to protect them from degradation.

Both telomeres and telomerase are thought to play central roles in ageing and diseases such as cancer, and her work helped launch entire new fields of research in these areas.

Tags: Aging, Australia, Nobel Prize, USA

Last updated: March 9, 2020