Australia's first female Nobel prize winner hailed at home

12:24, October 06, 2009      

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Australian-born Elizabeth Blackburn (R) has a champagne toast with Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, in San Francisco, California, October 5, 2009. Blackburn along with two other Americans won the Nobel prize in medicine for discovering and identifying telomerase, the enzymen that renews the little caps on the end of chromosomes whose natural fraying underlies aging and cancer. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Australia's first female Nobel prizewinner Elizabeth Blackburn is an inspiration to all young people, Acting Science Minister Craig Emerson told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

"Her scientific research is incredibly valuable to the human race ... it offers the prospect of going further down the path of dealing with debilitating diseases which so far have defeated scientific research," Emerson said.

"It is a great day for Australian science and Elizabeth's achievements are an inspiration to all young people, but especially young women who are considering a career in science."

Blackburn has become Australia's first female Nobel Laureate, after winning the Nobel Medicine Prize, along with Americans Carol Greider and Jack Szosta, for identifying a key molecular switch in cellular ageing.

The trio solved the mystery of how chromosomes, the rod-like structures that carry DNA, protect themselves from degrading when cells divide, an insight that has inspired new lines of research into cancer.

Tasmanian-born Professor Blackburn said her research could translate into a "fountain of youth" with the promise of human bodies that do not grow frail with time or let cancer grow.

"We don't think clocks will be turned back, but it is a question of whether we will extend our health span," she told Australian Associated Press.

Blackburn, 60, who was born in Hobart and holds U.S. and Australian citizenship, is a professor of biology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

In 2007 she was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world for her work into the potential of the enzyme telomerase for beating cancer.

Source: Xinhua

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