Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn

Elizabeth Blackburn has become Australia's first female recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, along with her fellow researchers Carol W Greider and Jack W Szostak. The trio won the prestigious scientific prize, awarded in Stockhom earlier today, for their discovery of telomeres. Likened to plastic tips that keep the end of shoelaces from unravelling, telomeres are said to be responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of chromosomes, even when they divide, so that no genetic information slips into the void during cell division.

This newfound knowledge has also opened up new avenues to explore with regards to cancer and how it spreads throughout the body. Research has suggested that cancer uses the telomeres to promote and sustain its growth. It is thought that blocking telomeres may help to halt the spread of the disesase.

“The discoveries by Blackburn, Greider and Szostak have added a new dimension to our understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and stimulated the development of potential new therapies,” the prize committee said in its citation.

Exciting news not just for medicine but for the Australian medical community too. For more information on Ms Blackburn, check out the lovely profile written by Time in 2007.

Image courtesy www.sfgate.com

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