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Aging and Cancer: Are Telomeres and Telomerase the Connection?

Host: Gail Tucker
Presenter: Jerry W. Shay, Ph.D.

Presenter: Dr. Jerry W. Shay

Dr. Jerry Shay

Dr. Jerry W. Shay is a Professor of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. A native of Dallas, Texas (he graduated from Hillcrest High School) he received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Texas in Austin, and his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. This was followed by postdoctoral research training with Keith Porter at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 1975, he joined the faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Shay has four children ranging in age from 10 to 24. His wife, Jennifer Cuthbert, is a physician and Professor of Internal Medicine, also at U.T. Southwestern.

We invited Dr. Shay's participation in SciTalk because of his exciting work on the telomerase hypothesis of aging. He has collaborated with Woody E. Wright, M.D., Ph.D. at U.T. Southwestern for several years. Dr. Shay received an NIH Research Career Development Award and together with Dr. Wright received the Allied Signal Award for Research in Aging. In 1998, the Dallas Business Journal wrote about their work determining that telomerase was the "cellular fountain of youth"and awarded them a "Health Hero Award". In 1998, Popular Science Magazine gave Drs. Shay and Wright "The Best of What's New" award for Science and Technology and featured their work in the February 1999 issue (see pages 57--59 by Dawn Stover "Fountain of Youth"). The importance of this work continues as well to be recognized by his peers, and Dr. Shay was just awarded a four year Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholarship to pursue novel areas of aging research. He has also been selected as the 1999 Wellcome Visiting Professorship in Basic Medical Sciences at Duke University Medical Center. The findings on telomeric sequences which Dr. Shay has agreed to discuss with us, was published in Science in 1998 and was featured by the international press in newspapers including the London Times, The New York Times and the Washington Post. The combination of outstanding science and science which stimulates public interest is important as it brings home to students the significance of public awareness in the progression of science. This work generated so much public interest that Drs. Shay and Wright were interviewed on several national television programs including the evening news at all three major networks, Good Morning America, and CNN Talk Back Live. Dr. Shay has of course been an invited speaker at numerous national and international research conferences where he has also discussed his aging and cancer research program.

Dr. Shay's output in the literature is prodigious, with over 200 scientific articles published in refereed journals, some 50 book chapters written and some 10 books edited on this and other subjects. He was recently identified by the Institute for Scientific Research as one of the most highly cited researchers in the world (he is proud to note that he is the only researcher to be so designated from the great State of Texas!). The life of the bench scientist is diverse, and as science at its best is interactive, we must note that Dr. Shay participates in this process with extraordinary energy and verve. He serves on the editorial boards of several scientific journals (Cancer Research, J. Clin. Path., J. Nat. Cancer Inst., J. Antiaging Res., and Exp. Gerontology, etc.) and on the Editorial Academy of the Int. J. Molecular Med. and the Int. J. Oncology. He assists on the American Federation of Aging Research National Committee and is the Chairman of the Scientific Review Committee for the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Geron Corporation (a biotechnology company in California that focuses on aging and cancer research) and the Executive Committee of Southwestern/M.D. Anderson Lung Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence. Dr. Shay has served as a panel member of the NIH Mammalian Genetics Study Section, the National Executive Council of the Tissue Culture Association, and he was recently elected to a four year term on the Board of Directors, of the International Society of Differentiation.

In addition to his research and publications, he has trained over 20 graduate and postdoctoral fellows in his laboratory at UT Southwestern, supervising the ongoing research of his students and research fellows and managing a number of administrative responsibilities. Dr. Shay also teaches first year medical students in the Biology of Cells and Tissues at U.T. Southwestern.

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