Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres: Deciphering by Catherine Brady

By Catherine Brady

Molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn—one of Time magazine’s a hundred “Most Influential humans on the earth” in 2007—made headlines in 2004 whilst she was once brushed off from the President's Council on Bioethics after objecting to the council's demand a moratorium on stem cellphone study and protesting the suppression of correct clinical facts in its ultimate file. however it is Blackburn's groundbreaking paintings on telomeric DNA, which introduced the sphere of telomere learn, that might have the extra profound and long-lasting impression on technology and society. during this compelling biography, Catherine Brady tells the tale of Elizabeth Blackburn's lifestyles and paintings and the emergence of a brand new box of clinical study at the really expert ends of chromosomes and the telomerase enzyme that extends them. within the early levels of telomere study, telomerase, heralded as a possible medication for melanoma and ailments with regards to getting older, attracted the voracious curiosity of biotech businesses. the encompassing hype succeeded in complicated the function of telemorase in extending the lifetime of a mobilephone with a mechanism that will expand the lifespan of a whole organism. In Brady's palms, Blackburn's tale unearths a lot concerning the pressure among natural and utilized technology, the politicking that makes examine technological know-how this kind of aggressive box, and the imaginative opportunism that characterizes the easiest medical considering. Brady describes the technological know-how accessibly and compellingly. She explores Blackburn's fight to collapse limitations in an elite, male-dominated career, her function as a mentor to different girls scientists (many of whom have made their mark in telomere research), and the collaborative nature of clinical paintings. This ebook offers us a bright portrait of a superb lady and a brand new realizing of the combo of interest, ingenious hypothesis, and aesthetic pride that powers medical discovery.

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Additional info for Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres: Deciphering the Ends of DNA

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At Yale Blackburn came to know Joan Steitz, who along with her husband, Tom, was now an assistant professor in Yale’s Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics Department, but they never discussed the discrimination Steitz had encountered at the MRC and during her subsequent job search. )12 “We talked about science,” Blackburn said. One of Gall’s Gals 43 For Blackburn, preserving this cherished freedom to focus on the work meant resolutely shutting one’s eyes to evidence that gender could be a handicap, just as she denied other obstacles.

This research would demonstrate that chorismate mutaseprephenate dehydratase carries out two of the sequential chemical steps (reactions) in building up an amino acid rather than just one, as is typical for enzymes; a previous study had identified just one other enzyme with this unusual property. Quantitative biochemical analysis of this purified enzyme provided a means of understanding how it carried out any of the steps for biosynthesis of the amino acid phenylalanine. Blackburn assayed for the enzyme’s activity in order to purify it from extracts of bacterial cells and then set out to determine its mass by analyzing its behavior under a purification process known as electrophoresis.

Blackburn was still at liberty to lose herself in her work. For her, a feeling of awe for the mystery of life, symbolically embodied in the “secret code” of the genes, was wedded to 34 Chapter 2 curiosity and a methodical effort to dismantle that mystery. She trusted her passion for her work and the excellent training she had received at the MRC to open doors for her in the future. And because Sanger had assigned Blackburn an approach to sequencing that no one else in the lab was trying, she felt shielded from the intense rivalry among the postdocs, who aligned in different clusters to compete to derive the best method for sequencing DNA directly.

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