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Vol. LXII, No. 24
November 26, 2010

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Nobel Laureate Greider Gives Aging Lecture, Dec. 1
Dr. Carol Greider

According to Dr. Carol Greider, her early school years were tough—dyslexia created a variety of education challenges. Then, in fifth grade, her family moved abroad, to Heidelberg, Germany, where she was confronted with the difficulty of learning another language. But speaking German turned out to be easier than managing the demands of the written word. Because of these obstacles, she learned to focus on the task at hand at a young age.

This tenacity has served her well as a research scientist. Greider went on to discover how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase, and at age 48, she was awarded a share of the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for that research. Now the Daniel Nathans professor and director of the department of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, she will present “Telomeres and Telomerase in Cancer and Age-Related Disease” at the Florence Mahoney Lecture on Aging, Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10. The lecture is part of the NIH Director’s Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series.

“Dr. Greider’s work is an example of how scientific curiosity, together with an astute and creative intellect, can take a researcher from one level of discovery to another,” said NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “The study of aging at the cellular level opens many avenues for investigators.”

Greider was brought up in an academic setting. Her parents were scientists with doctorates from the University of California, Berkeley—her father’s field was physics and her mother’s botany—but she did not grow up thinking she would follow in their footsteps. Then a biology course in her senior year in high school changed her mind. In 1983, she received a B.A. in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and, in 1987, she was awarded a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

As a young graduate student working in Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn’s lab at Berkeley, Greider discovered telomerase, an enzyme that maintains telomeres, or chromosome ends. Greider first isolated and characterized telomerase from the ciliate Tetrahymena, a single celled, pond-dwelling organism.

In 1988, Greider moved to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where as an independent fellow, she cloned and characterized the RNA component of telomerase. Further, she expanded the focus of her telomere research to include the role of telomere length in cell senescence, cell death and cancer. Together with Dr. Calvin Harley of McMaster University, she showed that human telomeres shorten progressively in primary human cells. This work, along with work of other researchers, led to the idea that telomere maintenance and telomerase may play important roles in cellular senescence and apoptosis.

In 1997, Greider moved to Johns Hopkins. Her group continued to study the biochemistry of telomerase and determined the secondary structure of the human telomerase RNA. She also developed a mouse model for dyskeratosis congenita, a rare, inherited disorder related to stem cell failure in response to shortened telomeres. She currently directs a group of 10 scientists studying both the biochemistry of telomeres and telomerase as well as the cellular consequences of short telomeres on organisms.

Greider has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on telomeres and telomerase and is the recipient of many awards. In addition to the Nobel Prize, she was awarded the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. In addition, she is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

A reception will be held in the NIH Library following the lecture. NIHRecord Icon

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