Carol W. Greider – Telomeres and Telomerase: From Curiosity Driven Research to Human Disease

1-GREIDER.Headshot.2014Porter Lecture
“Telomeres and Telomerase: From Curiosity Driven Research to Human Disease”

Carol W. Greider, Johns Hopkins University

Friday, August 19, 2016, 8 – 9pm
Lillie Auditorium
Lectures are free and open to the public.

Introduction by Jonathan Gitlin, Director, Division of Research, Marine Biological Laboratory


Telomeres are the structures at the end of chromosomes made of repetitive DNA that protect chromosome ends. Every time a cell divides, telomeres shorten by a small amount. This shortening is counter balanced by the enzyme telomerase, which adds telomere DNA repeats and elongates telomeres. Telomeres are thus not unique size but rather, are maintained about an equilibrium length. If telomere length is not properly maintained and they become too short, it can cause cell death. Problems with telomere length maintanance are associated with human disease, including both cancer and age-related degenerative disease. Cancer cells increase telomere length to allow for continuous growth; conversely, a failure to maintain telomeres in adult stem cells causes loss of tissue renewal. Short telomeres cause inherited Telomere Syndromes in humans, a group of diseases, which include, pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, bone marrow failure and liver disease. The inherited Telomere Syndromes offer a way to study normal age-associated degenerative disease that affect the normal aging.

Carol Greider, Ph.D. received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1983 and a Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1984, working together with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, she discovered telomerase, an enzyme that maintains telomeres, or chromosome ends. In 1988, Dr. Greider was recruited to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as an independent Cold Spring Harbor Fellow, where she cloned and characterized the RNA component of telomerase. In 1990, Dr. Greider was appointed as an assistant investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, followed later by appointment to Investigator in 1994. She expanded the focus of her telomere research to include the role of short telomeres in cellular senescence, cell death and in cancer. In 1997, Dr. Greider moved her laboratory to the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 2003, she was appointed as the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. Dr. Greider’s group continued to study the biochemistry of telomerase and determined the secondary structure of the human telomerase RNA. In addition, she characterized the loss of telomere function in mice, which allowed an understanding of human diseases that make up the short telomere syndromes. Dr. Greider shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 with Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak for their work on telomeres and telomerase. In 2014, Dr. Greider was appointed as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Greider currently directs a group of eight scientists studying both the role of short telomeres in age-related disease and cancer as well as the regulatory mechanism that maintain telomere length.

About the Porter Lecture:

The annual Porter Lecture is held in honor of Dr. Keith Roberts Porter, a former Director of the MBL considered by many to be the “Father” of the field of cell biology. It is sponsored by the Keith R. Porter Endowment whose goal is to support communication and education in cell biology.