Elizabeth Blackburn

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Professor Elizabeth Blackburn
Elizabeth Blackburn 2009-01.JPG
Born (1948-11-26) 26 November 1948 (age 65)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Residence US
Citizenship Australian and American
Fields Molecular biology
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
University of California, San Francisco
Yale University
the Salk Institute
Alma mater

University of Melbourne,

Darwin College, Cambridge
Doctoral advisor Frederick Sanger
Doctoral students include Carol W. Greider
Notable awards Harvey Prize {1999}, Heineken Prize, Lasker Award, Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (2008) Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2009)

Professor Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, AC, FRS, FAA, FRSN (born 26 November 1948) is an Australian-American biological researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies the telomere, a structure at the end of chromosomes that protects the chromosome. Blackburn co-discovered telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes the telomere. For this work, she was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, sharing it with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak.

She also worked in medical ethics, and was controversially dismissed from the Bush Administration's President's Council on Bioethics.

Early life and education[edit]

Elizabeth Helen Blackburn was born in Hobart, Tasmania on 26 November 1948. Her family moved to the town of Launceston when she was four, where she attended the Broadland House Church of England Girls' Grammar School (later amalgamated with Launceston Church Grammar School) until the age of sixteen. Upon her family's relocation to Melbourne, she then attended University High School, and ultimately gained very high marks in the end-of-year final statewide matriculation exams.[1] She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in 1970 and Master of Science in 1972, both from the University of Melbourne and her PhD in 1975 from the University of Cambridge (Darwin College). She then carried out postdoctoral work in molecular and cellular biology between 1975 and 1977 at Yale University.[2]

Work in molecular biology[edit]

In 1981, Blackburn joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Molecular Biology. In 1990, she moved across the San Francisco Bay to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she served as the Department Chairwoman from 1993 to 1999. Blackburn is currently the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at UCSF, and a non-resident fellow of the Salk Institute. She is the president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Blackburn co-discovered telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes the telomere. Blackburn recalls:[3]

Carol had done this experiment, and we stood, just in the lab, and I remember sort of standing there, and she had this – we call it a gel. It's an autoradiogram, because there was trace amounts of radioactivity that were used to develop an image of the separated DNA products of what turned out to be the telomerase enzyme reaction. I don't remember any details in that area, ‘Ah! This could be very big. This looks just right.’ It had a pattern to it. There was a regularity to it. There was something that was not just sort of garbage there, and that was really kind of coming through, even though we look back at it now, we'd say, technically, there was this, that and the other, but it was a pattern shining through, and it just had this sort of sense, ‘Ah! There's something real here.’

For this work, she was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, sharing it with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak.

In recent years Blackburn and her colleagues have been investigating the effect of stress on telomerase and telomeres[4] with particular emphasis on mindfulness meditation.[5][6] She is also one of several biologists (and one of two Nobel Prize laureates) in the 1995 science documentary Death by Design/The Life and Times of Life and Times.

Studies suggest that chronic psychological stress may accelerate ageing at the cellular level. Intimate partner violence was found to shorten telomere length in formerly abused women versus never abused women, possibly causing poorer overall health and greater morbidity in abused women.[7]

Bioethics[edit]

Blackburn was appointed a member of the President's Council on Bioethics in 2002. She supported human embryonic cell research, in opposition to the Bush Administration. Her Council terms were terminated by White House directive on 27 February 2004.[8] This was followed by expressions of outrage over her removal by many scientists, who maintained that she was fired because of political opposition to her advice.[9]

"There is a growing sense that scientific research—which, after all, is defined by the quest for truth—is being manipulated for political ends," wrote Blackburn. "There is evidence that such manipulation is being achieved through the stacking of the membership of advisory bodies and through the delay and misrepresentation of their reports."[10][11]

Blackburn serves on the Science Advisory Board of the Genetics Policy Institute.

Personal[edit]

Blackburn lives in San Francisco with her husband, John W. Sedat, and has a son, Benjamin.[12]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2007, Blackburn was listed among Time Magazine's The TIME 100—The People Who Shape Our World.[21]

See also[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Brady 2007, pp. 1-13
  2. ^ "Elizabeth Blackburn Profile at UCSF". Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  3. ^ "Elizabeth Blackburn Interview (by Carol Greider page: 2 / 8) Nobel Prize in Medicine". American Academy of Achievement. 17 November 2009. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Epel ES, Lin J, Dhabhar FS, Wolkowitz OM, Puterman E, Karan L, Blackburn EH (2010). "Dynamics of telomerase activity in response to acute psychological stress". Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 24 (4): 531–539. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2009.11.018. PMC 2856774. PMID 20018236. 
  5. ^ Jacobs TL, Epel ES, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Wolkowitz OM, Bridwell DA, Zanesco AP, Aichele SR, Sahdra BK, Maclean KA, King BG, Shaver PR, Rosenberg EL, Ferrer E, Wallace BA, Saron CD (2010). "Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators". Psychoneuroendocrinology 36 (5): 664–681. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.09.010. PMID 21035949. 
  6. ^ Elissa Epel, Jennifer Daubenmier, Judith Tedlie Moskowitz, Susan Folkman, Elizabeth Blackburn (2009). "Can Meditation Slow Rate of Cellular Aging? Cognitive Stress, Mindfulness, and Telomeres". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1172 (1): 34–53. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x. PMC 3057175. PMID 19735238. 
  7. ^ Janice Humphreys, Elissa S. Epel, Bruce A. Cooper, Jue Lin, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Kathryn A. Lee (2012). "Telomere Shortening in Formerly Abused and Never Abused Women". Biological Research for Nursing 14 (2): 115–123. doi:10.1177/1099800411398479. 
  8. ^ Blackburn, E. & Rowley, J. (2004). "Reason as Our Guide". PLoS Biology 2 (4): e116. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020116. PMC 359389. PMID 15024408. 
  9. ^ "Scientists rally around stem cell advocate fired by Bush". USA Today. Associated Press. 19 March 2004. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  10. ^ Bioethics and the Political Distortion of Biomedical Science Elizabeth Blackburn, N Engl J Med 350:1379–1380 (1 April 2004)
  11. ^ A Nobel prize for a Bush critic By Andrew Leonard, Salon.com, 5 October 2009 Free text. Extensive quotation from Blackburn's article.
  12. ^ UCSF’s Elizabeth Blackburn Receives Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, By Jennifer O'Brien. Press release.
  13. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 10 April 2011. 
  14. ^ "List of Fellows of the Royal Society 1660 – 2007". Royal Society Library & Information Services. July 2007. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ a b "Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  17. ^ "Blackburn, Greider, and Szostak share Nobel". Dolan DNA Learning Center. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  18. ^ "It's an Honour". Itsanhonour.gov.au. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  19. ^ "Fellows of RSNSW". RSNSW. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Officers of the AACR". Aacr.org. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  21. ^ Alice Park (3 May 2007). "The Time 100: Elizabeth Blackburn". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 

References[edit]

  • Brady, Catherine (2007). Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-02622-2. 

External links[edit]