Elizabeth Blackburn is visiting Taiwan for the first time to speak about her Nobel winning research into how telomeres are connected to mortality risks and aging-related disease, expressing the hope that her visit will “prompt interest” in future collaboration.
Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics joins a team of researchers at UCSF to measure the health benefits of drastic calorie restriction. One of the aims of the CRONA (Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition and Aging Study) is to see whether extremely low calorie intake slows down aging, and therefore reduces the risk of developing age related illnesses.
Biological research on cellular longevity reached a cornerstone in 2009 when Elizabeth BlackBurn, Carol Greider, and Jack Szostak all won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering that telomeres, protective DNA caps at the ends of chromosomes, govern the lifespan of cells. The length of telomeres in turn are protected and augmented by an enzyme called telomerase.
Telomere shortening is a marker for cellular aging and is linked to our susceptibility to chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Historically there have been two defining questions in telomeres studies: is there a connection between telomere lengths and our vulnerability to health risks associated with the aging process? Also, can people revise their lifestyles to lengthen their telomeres, and therefore increase their chances of staying healthy?
A new frontier in medical science is making a historic splash in the way many researchers are thinking about the aging process. The length of our telomeres (protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that fray away and diminish naturally as we get older) may hold the key to discovering how well our bodies will age and our susceptibility to chronic illnesses.