Carol W. Greider

Last updated
Carolyn Widney Greider
GREIDER Carol 2014 - Less vignetting.jpg
Greider in 2014
Born (1961-04-15) April 15, 1961 (age 57)
Residence Davis, California
Santa Barbara, California
Berkeley, California
Baltimore, Maryland
Education University of California, Santa Barbara (B.A. 1983)
University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D. 1987)
Known forDiscovery of telomerase
Nathaniel C. Comfort
(m. 1993;div. 2011)
Awards Richard Lounsbery Award (2003)
Lasker Award (2006)
Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (2007)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2009)
Scientific career
FieldsMolecular biology
Institutions Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Thesis Identification of a specific telomere terminal transferase activity in Tetrahymena extracts  (1985)
Doctoral advisor Elizabeth Blackburn
Other academic advisors Beatrice M. Sweeney
David J. Asai
Leslie Wilson

Carolyn Widney "Carol" Greider (born April 15, 1961) is an American molecular biologist and Nobel laureate. She is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Daniel Nathans Professor, and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University. [1] She discovered the enzyme telomerase in 1984, while she was a graduate student of Elizabeth Blackburn at the University of California, Berkeley. Greider pioneered research on the structure of telomeres, the ends of the chromosomes. She was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Blackburn and Jack W. Szostak, for their discovery that telomeres are protected from progressive shortening by the enzyme telomerase. [2]

Molecular biology branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity

Molecular biology is a branch of biology that concerns the molecular basis of biological activity between biomolecules in the various systems of a cell, including the interactions between DNA, RNA, proteins and their biosynthesis, as well as the regulation of these interactions. Writing in Nature in 1961, William Astbury described molecular biology as:

...not so much a technique as an approach, an approach from the viewpoint of the so-called basic sciences with the leading idea of searching below the large-scale manifestations of classical biology for the corresponding molecular plan. It is concerned particularly with the forms of biological molecules and [...] is predominantly three-dimensional and structural – which does not mean, however, that it is merely a refinement of morphology. It must at the same time inquire into genesis and function.

Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships

Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships (BDPs) were established as part of a $350 million investment by Michael Bloomberg, JHU Class of 1964, to Johns Hopkins University in 2013. Fifty faculty members, ten from Johns Hopkins University and forty recruited from institutions worldwide, will be chosen for these endowed professorships based on their research, teaching, service, and leadership records. The program is directed and managed by Johns Hopkins University Vice Provost for Research, Dr. Denis Wirtz.

Johns Hopkins University Private research university in Baltimore, Maryland

Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named for its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur, abolitionist, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. His $7 million bequest —of which half financed the establishment of Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States up to that time. Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution's first president on February 22, 1876, led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research. Adopting the concept of a graduate school from Germany's ancient Heidelberg University, Johns Hopkins University is considered the first research university in the United States. Over the course of several decades, the university has led all U.S. universities in annual research and development expenditures. In fiscal year 2016, Johns Hopkins spent nearly $2.5 billion on research.


Early life and education

Greider was born in San Diego, California. [3] Her father, Kenneth Greider, was a physics professor. [4] Her family moved from San Diego to Davis, California, where she spent many of her early years and graduated from Davis Senior High School in 1979. She graduated from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a B.A. in biology in 1983. During this time she also studied at the University of Göttingen and made significant discoveries there. [5]

San Diego City in California, United States

San Diego is a city in the U.S. state of California. It is in San Diego County, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Physics Study of the fundamental properties of matter and energy

Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its motion, and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

Greider is dyslexic and states that her "compensatory skills also played a role in my success as a scientist because one has to intuit many different things that are going on at the same time and apply those to a particular problem" [6] Greider initially suspected her dyslexia after seeing patterns of common mistakes such as backwards words when she received back graded work in the first grade. [7] Greider started to memorize words and their spellings rather than attempting to sound out the spelling of words. [6] Greider has worked significantly to overcome her dyslexia to become successful in her professional life, and credits her dyslexia as helping her appreciate differences and making unusual decisions such as the one to work with Tetrahymena, an unusual organism. [6]

Dyslexia neurological condition, developmental or acquired

Dyslexia, also known as reading disorder, is characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties in spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, "sounding out" words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads. Often these difficulties are first noticed at school. When someone who previously could read loses their ability, it is known as alexia. The difficulties are involuntary and people with this disorder have a normal desire to learn.

<i>Tetrahymena</i> genus of ciliate protozoa

Tetrahymena is a genus of free-living ciliates that can also switch from commensalistic to pathogenic modes of survival. They are common in freshwater ponds. Tetrahymena species used as model organisms in biomedical research are T. thermophila and T. pyriformis.

Greider initially had difficulty getting in to graduate school due to low GRE scores as a result of her dyslexia. U.C. Berkeley’s graduate school admission office was able to focus on Greider’s impressive experience and credentials and accepted her. [6] Greider applied to thirteen grad schools and was only accepted to two, Caltech and U.C. Berkeley. [6] She chose the University of California, Berkeley where she would be able to work with Elizabeth Blackburn and the two made their telomerase discovery. [6]

University of California, Berkeley Public university in California, USA

The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868 and serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has since grown to instruct over 40,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines.

California Institute of Technology private research university located in Pasadena, California

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private doctorate-granting research university in Pasadena, California. Known for its strength in natural science and engineering, Caltech is often ranked as one of the world's top-ten universities.

Elizabeth Blackburn Australian-born American biological researcher

Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, is an Australian-American Nobel laureate who is the former President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Previously she was a biological researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who studied the telomere, a structure at the end of chromosomes that protects the chromosome. In 1984, Blackburn co-discovered telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes the telomere, with Carol W. Greider. For this work, she was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, sharing it with Greider and Jack W. Szostak, becoming the only Tasmanian-born Nobel laureate. She also worked in medical ethics, and was controversially dismissed from the Bush Administration's President's Council on Bioethics.

Discovery of telomerase

She completed her Ph.D. in molecular biology in 1987 at the University of California, Berkeley, under Elizabeth Blackburn. While at UC Berkeley, Greider co-discovered telomerase, a key enzyme in cancer and anemia research, along with Blackburn.

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

Telomerase telomerase

Telomerase, also called terminal transferase, is a ribonucleoprotein that adds a species-dependent telomere repeat sequence to the 3' end of telomeres. A telomere is a region of repetitive sequences at each end of eukaryotic chromosomes in most eukaryotes. Telomeres protect the end of the chromosome from DNA damage or from fusion with neighbouring chromosomes. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster lacks telomerase, but instead uses retrotransposons to maintain telomeres.

Greider joined Blackburn's laboratory in April 1984 looking for the enzyme that was hypothesized to add extra DNA bases to the ends of chromosomes. Without the extra bases, which are added as repeats of a six base pair motif, chromosomes are shortened during DNA replication, eventually resulting in chromosome deterioration and senescence or cancer-causing chromosome fusion. Blackburn and Greider looked for the enzyme in the model organism Tetrahymena thermophila , a fresh-water protozoan with a large number of telomeres. [8]

DNA replication The cellular metabolic process in which a cell duplicates one or more molecules of DNA. DNA replication begins when specific sequences, known as origins of replication, are recognized and bound by initiation proteins

In molecular biology, DNA replication is the biological process of producing two identical replicas of DNA from one original DNA molecule. DNA replication occurs in all living organisms acting as the basis for biological inheritance. The cell possesses the distinctive property of division, which makes replication of DNA essential.

Senescence gradual deterioration of function characteristic of most complex lifeforms

Senescence or biologicalaging is the gradual deterioration of functional characteristics. The word senescence can refer either to cellular senescence or to senescence of the whole organism. Organismal senescence involves an increase in death rates and/or a decrease in fecundity with increasing age, at least in the later part of an organism's life cycle.

On December 25, 1984, Greider first obtained results indicating that a particular enzyme was likely responsible. After six months of additional research Greider and Blackburn concluded that it was the enzyme responsible for telomere addition. They published their findings in the journal Cell in December, 1985. [9] The enzyme, originally called "telomere terminal transferase," is now known as telomerase. Telomerase rebuilds the tips of chromosomes and determines the life span of cells. [10]

Greider's additional research to confirm her discovery was largely focused on identifying the mechanism that telomerase uses for elongation. [11] Greider chose to use RNA degrading enzymes and saw that the telomeres stopped extending, which was an indication that RNA was involved in the enzyme. [11] Greider also used telomerase deficient mice and saw that her sixth generation of mice had become entirely sterile, she mated them with control mice and the telomerase deficient mice were able to regenerate their telomeres. [11]

Subsequent career

Greider then completed her postdoctoral work, and also held a faculty position, at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island, New York. During this time, Greider, in collaboration with Ronald A. DePinho, produced the first telomerase knockout mouse, showing that although telomerase is dispensable for life, increasingly short telomeres result in various deleterious phenotypes, colloquially referred to as premature aging. In the mid-1990s, Greider was recruited by Michael D. West, founder of biotechnology company Geron (now CEO of BioTime) to join the company's Scientific Advisory Board. [12]

Greider, Blackburn and Jack Szostak, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, shared the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for their work on telomeres. [13]

In February 2014, Greider was named a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. [14]

Greider currently serves as director of and professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins Medicine. [10] Greider was first promoted to Daniel Nathans Professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics in 2004. [15] Greider's lab employs both student and post-doctoral trainees [16] in order to further examine the relationships between the biology of telomeres and their connection to disease. [15] Greider's lab uses a variety of tools including yeast, mice, and biochemistry in order to look at progressive telomere shortening. [17] Greider's lab is also researching how tumor reformation can be controlled by the presence of short telomeres. [17] The lab's future work will focus more on identifying the processing and regulation of telomeres and telomere elongation. [17]

Personal life

Greider married Nathaniel C. Comfort, a fellow academic, in 1992. She has two children. Greider is divorced. [18] Before Greider's children were born, she competed in triathlons. She still bikes, runs, and swims for fitness. [10]

Awards and honors

Selected works

See also

Related Research Articles

Physiology science of the function of living systems

Physiology is the scientific study of the functions and mechanisms which work within a living system.

Telomere nucleotide sequences

A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. Its name is derived from the Greek nouns telos (τέλος) "end" and merοs "part". For vertebrates, the sequence of nucleotides in telomeres is AGGGTT, with the complementary DNA strand being TCCCAA, with a single-stranded TTAGGG overhang. This sequence of TTAGGG is repeated approximately 2,500 times in humans. In humans, average telomere length declines from about 11 kilobases at birth to less than 4 kilobases in old age, with the average rate of decline being greater in men than in women.

The year 1984 in science and technology involved some significant events.

Thomas Cech Nobel laureate in chemistry

Thomas Robert Cech is an American chemist who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Sidney Altman, for their discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA. Cech discovered that RNA could itself cut strands of RNA, suggesting that life might have started as RNA. He also studied telomeres, and his lab discovered an enzyme, TERT, which is part of the process of restoring telomeres after they are shortened during cell division. As president of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he promoted science education, and he teaches an undergraduate chemistry course at the University of Colorado.

The Hayflick limit or Hayflick phenomenon is the number of times a normal human cell population will divide before cell division stops.

Michael D. West American businessman

Michael D. West is a gerontologist, and a pioneer in stem cells, cellular aging and telomerase. He is the founder and CEO of AgeX Therapeutics, a startup focused on the field of interventional gerontology, and Co-CEO of its parent company, BioTime, Inc. of Alameda, California, a biotechnology company regarded as a leader in the field of regenerative medicine with a focus on cell therapy.

Joseph Grafton Gall is an American cell biologist who is noted for studies revealing the details of chromosome structure and function. Gall's studies were greatly facilitated by his knowledge of many different organisms because he could select the most favorable organism to study when approaching a specific question about nuclear structure. He was awarded the 2006 Albert Lasker Special Achievement Award. He was also a co-recipient of the 2007 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. In 1983 he was honored with the highest recognition of the American Society for Cell Biology, the E. B. Wilson Medal. He had been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1972.

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Jack W. Szostak American biologist

Jack William Szostak is a Canadian American biologist of Polish British descent, Nobel Prize laureate, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. Szostak has made significant contributions to the field of genetics. His achievement helped scientists to map the location of genes in mammals and to develop techniques for manipulating genes. His research findings in this area are also instrumental to the Human Genome Project. He was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres.

Telomerase RNA component non-coding RNA in the species Homo sapiens

Telomerase RNA component, also known as TERC, is an ncRNA found in eukaryotes that is a component of telomerase, the enzyme used to extend telomeres. TERC serves as a template for telomere replication by telomerase. Telomerase RNAs differ greatly in sequence and structure between vertebrates, ciliates and yeasts, but they share a 5' pseudoknot structure close to the template sequence. The vertebrate telomerase RNAs have a 3' H/ACA snoRNA-like domain.

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Bryant Villeponteau is an American scientist, entrepreneur, and longevity expert who has worked in both academia and industry. His early work included the cloning of the RNA component of human telomerase when working at Geron Corporation, which led to his winning the 1997 Distinguished Inventor Award for cloning human telomerase along with three of his Geron teammates. In 2008, Villeponteau went on to serve as Vice President of Research of the aging genetics company Genescient, Inc., which uses machine learning technologies, biochemistry, and Drosophila genetics to develop therapeutics to help delay the aging process. He is also a cofounder of Centagen, Inc., which focuses on developing new technologies for extending human health and longevity by promoting adult stem cells.

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  22. NAS Online Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine ("For her pioneering biochemical and genetic studies of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains the ends of chromosomes in eukaryotic cells.")
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Further reading