A professor at Harvard Medical School is among three recipients of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their pioneering work in the field of genetic research.
Jack Szostak, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, shared the prize with Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and Carol Greider of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The three scientists were awarded the highest prize in science for research associated with the discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that seals off the tips of chromosomes, which contains DNA sequencing and are considered key in understanding both aging and cancer.
Telomerase protects chromosomes during cell division. Without it, the chromosome is shortened each time the cell divides and the risk of contracting age-related diseases increases as the chromosome wears down, according to an interview with Blackburn published in the Wall Street Journal .
Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., is launching a clinical trial to test a telomerase inhibitor for use in fighting cancer, as it’s believed that cancer cells have increased telomarase activity, according to the Journal.
Szostak, 57, has also done a considerable amount of work analyzing the origins of cells. He’s the 44th current or former Harvard faculty member to win the coveted Nobel prize, according to the Harvard Gazette.
Here’s a slideshow depicting how telomerase works, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.