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New Vistas Series: Chromosome Ends - Life and Disease

New Vistas Series: Chromosome Ends - Life and Disease

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the New York Academy of Sciences


One of the world's leading experts in telomere and telomerase research hosts an evening with two young investigators working to connect basic knowledge of telomere biology with clinical conditions.

The New Vistas Series invites highly accomplished scientists to serve as hosts for an evening of "Science at the Frontiers." Each evening will feature talks by two up-and-coming scientists whose work has been identified by the host as exceptionally worthy of the spotlight.

Host: Elizabeth Blackburn, University of California, San Francisco


Life Stress and Cell Aging: Too Close for Comfort
Elissa Epel, PhD; University of California, San Francisco

Chronic stress can worsen both physical and mental health. There has been an age old search for a deeper understanding of the mind-body connection, including how stress, feelings and thoughts, can affect health. Recent research has shown that perceptions of life stress or dealing with a chronic stressor like caregiving can lead to premature aging at the cellular level (as evidenced by declining ability to forestall telomere shortening). We will discuss some of the pathways we are discovering about this connection.

Telomerase and Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
Mary Armanios, MD; Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Telomeres shorten successively with each cell division and short telomeres signal cell death. Telomerase is a remarkable enzyme responsible for telomere addition. Mutations in telomerase components lead to excessive telomere shortening that manifests as organ failure in a rare syndrome known as dyskeratosis congenita. Based on the observation that patients with dyskeratosis congenita develop progressive fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs, we identified mutations in telomerase components in families with inherited idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. These findings broaden the disease spectrum associated with short telomeres and provide new opportunities to understand the biology of processes long-considered idiopathic.

Speaker Bios

Dr. Elissa Epel is an Assistant Professor in Residence in the Department of Psychiatry, at UCSF. She received her training in psychology from Stanford and Yale University, with a focus on health psychology and behavioral medicine, and subsequently completed clinical training, focusing on behavioral medicine, at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Health Care System, and a postdoctoral fellowship (in Psychology and Medicine) at UCSF. Dr. Epel is a faculty member of the Health Psychology program, the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars fellowship program, and Director of Research for the new UCSF Center on Obesity (COAST, She has longstanding interests in the impact of stress physiology on "metabolic health," including food intake, insulin resistance, obesity, and premature aging at the cellular level, and how health enhancing interventions might enhance regulation in these systems.

Dr. Mary Armanios is assistant professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University. She earned her medical degree at Ohio State University in 1996, and later completed a combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency at the OSU Medical Center and Columbus Children's Hospital. She came to Hopkins in 2001 to join the medical oncology fellowship program. As part of her postdoctoral training, she joined Carol Greider's laboratory, where she developed an interest in stem cell pathophysiology associated with the inherited syndrome of telomere shortening dyskeratosis congenita. Her current research aims to bridge basic knowledge of telomere biology to clinically relevant paradigms.

Diseases Associated with Telomere Aberrations

Mary Armanios (Johns Hopkins Medicine)

Chronic Stress and Aging

Elissa Epel (University of California, San Francisco)

Chromosome Ends and Rogue Cells

Elizabeth Blackburn (University of California, San Francisco)