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SALK in the city... NEW YORK

Vicki Lundblad

Professor Vicki Lundblad, Diana Kalman and Kristina Kalman Fares during the luncheon at The Modern.

At two special events last November, New York friends of the Salk Institute had a chance to learn firsthand how their philanthropic investments are impacting groundbreaking research.The events, which took place in New York City for members of the Salk President's Club and NY salkexcellerators, both featured Vicki Lundblad, a professor in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, who is renowned for her work in a fast-moving area of basic research called telomere biology.

To both audiences, Lundblad explained how telomeres, the very ends of chromosomes, play a crucial role in both cancer and aging. Each time our cells divide, a little bit of DNA is lost from the telomeres. Whether cells have a finite or infinite ability to proliferate is determined by the telomeres, which are tended to by an enzyme called telomerase. The limited number of divisions that telomerase-defective cells undergo eventually contributes to the aging process. Conversely, cancer cells have learned how to keep telomerase turned on all the time, and this fuels the unlimited cell division that is a hallmark of tumor growth.