A Nobel links aging, cancer, evolution and politics

A Nobel links aging, cancer, evolution and politics

Summary: The practical result might be a cancer vaccine which attacks cells that produce telemorase, turning off the cancer process while allowing normal aging to continue.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Health
7

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine went to three American researchers whose work on the ends of DNA and the enzyme controlling them link the disparate subjects of cancer, aging and evolution.

Oh, and there's a dose of politics.

Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak were colleagues in the early 1980s, and Carol Greider was a Blackburn grad student, when Greider discovered the enzyme telemorase in 1984. Greider thus becomes famous for winning a science Nobel at the relatively "young" age of 48.

Szostak has since worked on the evolutionary aspects of this discovery, seeking explanations for how chemistry became biology in Earth's earliest days.

Blackburn and Greidner worked on how telemorase builds telomeres at the end of DNA, redundant genes that protect the underlying DNA structure like a plastic cap on a twisted electrical connection. Telemorase declines as we age, but becomes abundant in cancer.

The practical result might be a cancer vaccine which attacks cells that produce telemorase, turning off the cancer process while allowing normal aging to continue.

We promised some politics, and it comes from Blackburn (above, from the Nobel Prize Web site).

Appointed to the President's Council on Bioethics in 2001, she was fired in 2004, but she did not go quietly. Instead she blew the whistle on the Administration's "political distortion" of biomedical science, detailing it all with another member, Janet Rowley, at PLoS Biology.

Oh, and before my fellow Americans haul out their USA chants, Blackburn was born in Australia and Szostak in England.

Topic: Health

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

7 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Then I do not understand

    [i]Oh, and before my fellow Americans haul out their USA chants, Blackburn was born in Australia and Szostak in England[/i]

    With the fantastic health care and related top notch, matching, medical research in those countries, why did they even bother coming to this country to do the research.

    It sounds like they were most likely held back, they would have received this honor years ago were they to have worked in some other country, give the terrible state our healthcare system is in.
    GuidingLight
    • Can we forego the political BS please?

      Everyone knows your right-wing neo-con bent. Go post it somehwere else...like on Fox News' web site.
      ths40
    • You are living proof that the American Health System doesn't work

      An Hospice for the mentally ill is a place where people should received proper attention not simply tied to a bed but allowed to use the Internet at will.
      The Mentalist
    • @tsh & @mentalist

      Allow the man his opinion, guys. You're doing exactly the same *and* on top of that you do personal attacks on the poster. Immature.
      CounterEthicsCommissioner-23034636492738337469105860790963
      • It's uncomfortably common

        Glad you noticed. But you have yet to admit how ubiquitous this kind of abuse is.

        Some on the right have, and have determined that conservatives can't gain until they police themselves, stop it, and show the other side some respect.

        I'm waiting for that. But I'm not holding my breath.
        DanaBlankenhorn
    • America's Great Research Universities

      We're going on fumes, guys. Blackburn and Szostak came here to be part of our great universities. They weren't educated here.

      We're going to start losing as other nations like China build their own.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • "A Nobel links aging, cancer, evolution and politics"

    A Nobel what?

    The title needs a little more work, I'm afraid.
    ths40