Elizabeth Blackburn: The Woman With The Cure
As time ages, new discoveries emerge. As education advances, innovations are created. These innovations facilitate our daily lives, and cause us to live more efficient, spend less time performing certain tasks, and accelerate the speed at which we do work. History has proven that one person is sufficient to cause change in the way that we live. The medical field has been innovated countless times and each improvement revolutionizes the way doctors treat patients. Thanks to medical researchers, medical science has made groundbreaking advancements in the treatment of diseases. Diseases such as polio and black fever that once killed in masses are virtually nonexistent in today’s world. Even though methods of treatment have improved, there are still a number of diseases that are a mystery, and scientists have not yet comprehended because the human body is complex and difficult to understand. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and over 500,000 people fell victim to this disease in the year 2007 (“Cancer Statistics” 2010). Imagine a world where cancer is no longer a disease that ravages the lives of millions of people, a world where diseases associated with aging can be controlled. Sounds like an idea from a Star Trek movie, right. The mental picture that comes to mind is likely a contraption, which encircles an individual as he or she floats, and is healing the cells of his or her body. The cure for cancer is on its way to be release from the realm of imagination and into the world of possibility. How far away is this cure? Elizabeth Blackburn, an Australian born scientist, is a scientist that can provide this answer through her research on DNA and cellular reproduction. She is on her way to developing a cure for this disease and unlocking the mysteries of aging. Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn was born in Hobart, Australia in 1948. She was one of seven children. Both of her parents were physicians, and she was exposed to the science field at an early age. In an interview with Discover Magazine, she stated, “So many members of my extended family were doctors; there was this expectation that I would be a physician” (“Elizabeth Blackburn Biography”). However, she did not feel obligated to be a doctor because of her ancestry. In an interview with Readers Digest she stated that her parents “would sometimes talk about patients and their stories, but it was science that captivated me intellectually. It was a very natural thing for me. At one stage I thought I’d like to be a musician, but I didn’t play the piano well enough”. She did decide to follow in the footsteps of her parents and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from the University of Melbourne in Australia. She later decided to travel to England to study at Cambridge, where she completed her Ph.D. Dr. Blackburn joined the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of California, and she oversaw a laboratory of sixteen researchers. She pursued further educational endeavors and earned a post-doctoral research position in molecular and cellular biology at Yale University to increase her comprehension of biology. She was later employed by the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley to do research. Dr. Blackburn met a biology graduate named Carol Greider; this person aided her in taking her research to the next level a few years after arriving at Berkeley. Their collaboration unlocked the mysteries of the telomere's regulating enzyme and led to the discovery of a new enzyme. What are telomere and telomerase? During the process called mitosis, a cell replicates and creates a genetic copy of its DNA. In order to ensure that the cells genetics can be safely stored and capable of replicating again, a special cap called the telomere protects them. Telomeres are controlled by the enzyme telomerase. A telomere is a repeating DNA sequence at the tips of the cell’s...
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