Telomeres are the protective, specialized DNA-protein complexes at the tips of our chromosomes that help stabilize the genetic information. As cells divide throughout our lives these tips erode, causing the cells to malfunction or die. Short telomeres have been linked to chronic psychological distress as well as major chronic diseases linked to getting older such as cancer and liver dysfunction.
The enzyme telomerase can add DNA to telomeres, counteracting the processes that shorten them and raising the possibility of being able to slow or even reverse ageing. One of the most important challenges in research today is applying our knowledge of telomeres and telomerase in this way to the biological process of ageing.
Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, Morris Herzstein Professor in Biology and Physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, is a leader in telomere and telomerase research and was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work in this area.
Blackburn earned her BSc and MSc degrees from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and her PhD from the University of Cambridge. She worked as a postdoc at Yale before joining the University of California at Berkeley in 1978. In 1990, she moved to UC San Francisco. She was elected President of the American Society for Cell Biology in 1998 and is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of London, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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.
To register for your free place at this talk, please email Katie Weeks (firstname.lastname@example.org). A drinks reception with demonstrations from Imperial researchers will follow the talk.