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Nobel winners praised by U of C researchers

Nobel prize for medicine winners Blackburn, Greider and Szostak, are praised by fellow scientists working close to the same field at the University of Copenhagen

US-based Nobel Prize winning scientists Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak have added a new perspective to our understanding of the chromosomes and inspired the development of potential new therapies. This is according to researchers working in related fields at the University of Copenhagen.

The three scientists have just been announced winners for the discovery of ‘how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase’.

Bypasses ageing process

Mads Gyrd-Hansen is a postdoctoral scientist working at the University of Copenhagen Biotech Research and Innovation Centre. According to him, the identification of the enzyme telomerase in humans is a key finding for our understanding of how cancer cells can continue to multiply whereas most normal human cells can only divide a limited number of times.

He goes on to explain the process in more detail.

»A region of our chromosomes called the telomeres acts as a counter for the number of divisions a cell has undergone. By activating the enzyme telomerase, cancer cells can bypass this ‘ageing’ process and can divide limitlessly, causing disease,« he says.

Boom to cosmetics and clinical health

Shashank Gupta, a postdoctoral scientist working at the University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Life Sciences, says that the discovery opens the understanding of how ageing takes place. Increased telomerase activity can overcome the problem of ageing and senescence – the biological changes which take place in organisms as they age.

»The finding is ground-breaking and is surely worth a Nobel Prize, as it can bring a big boom to the industry of cosmetics and clinical health, and is important to the understanding of cancer,« he says.

Michael Kofoed-Nielsen, a Master’s student in molecular biomedicine at the University of Copenhagen explains that the research allows us to understand why cell types like stem cells and cancer cells can escape cellular ageing and why others can’t. This «contributes significantly to the experimental opportunities in cellular biology,« he says.

This pdf-file has a graphic of their research from the Nobel Prize Committee’s own site here.