Deep within our bodies, our cells work hard to maintain stability and repair damage in our genomes. Patricia Opresko, PhD, investigates the processes behind genomic stability, particularly DNA damage and repair at the telomeres, and their influence on aging and diseases of aging, including cancer. Chromosomes are tightly packed bundles of DNA inside almost all cells in the body, and at the ends of each chromosome lie protective caps called telomeres. As we age telomeres shorten. Telomere loss in normal cells causes cell aging, contributing to the onset of age-related degenerative diseases, whereas telomere loss in pre-cancerous cells causes genetic alterations and cancer progression. Dr. Opresko studies how damage to telomeres affects their ability to cap and protect chromosome ends, as well as how telomere repair may prevent disease. Understanding telomere damage and repair mechanisms could lead to new strategies for protecting chromosomes and maintaining youthful cells.
Dr. Opresko received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from DeSales University and her biochemistry and molecular biology PhD from Pennsylvania State University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship studying DNA repair and aging at the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.