Dr. Immaculata De Vivo
The Impact of Telomere Dynamics and Lifestyle Choices on Cancer Risk
Abstract: Telomeres, the dynamic nucleoprotein structures at the ends of linear chromosomes, maintain the genomic integrity of a cell. Telomere length shortens with age due to incomplete replication of DNA ends with each cell division and damage incurred by oxidative stress. Once telomeres shorten to a critical length, a proliferation block is encountered where the cell either undergoes apoptosis or a permanent growth arrest known as senescence. Telomere length may therefore serve as a biological clock to determine the lifespan of a cell and an organism. Mutations in known telomere maintenance genes have been shown to cause telomere shortening, which leads to a reduced lifespan. Certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, body mass index and stress have been found to correlate with accelerated telomere shortening, likely via increasing DNA damage. Recent studies have identified other lifestyle factors, including Mediterranean diet and physical activity, which may potentially protect telomeres and the health of an individual. I will highlight the important role of telomeres in human disease and aging in general and summarize lifestyle factors that may affect health and longevity by altering the rate of telomere shortening.
Dr. Immaculata De Vivo is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women's Hospital and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. De Vivo is an international leader in the area of molecular and genetic epidemiology of cancer. Her research focuses on how the environment interacts with genetic variants to influence susceptibility to hormonal cancers. Her laboratory focuses primarily on the discovery and characterization of genetic biological markers to assess disease susceptibility in human populations. Dr. De Vivo is also a leader in the field of telomere biology. Her work has added tremendous insight to the role of telomeres in cancer etiology. Because telomere length has both genetic and environmental determinants she has also demonstrated how lifestyle choices can delay or accelerate telomere shortening. A specific example is her work with telomeres and adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Her finding that adherence to a Mediterranean diet, published in British Medical Journal, can delay telomere shortening was particularly notable for its broad implications that DNA can be modified by lifestyle choices. It was recognized by scientific community with an award in 2015 by the Universita Popolare Medicina degli Stili di Vita for her work exploring the molecular mechanism by which the Mediterranean diet improves longevity. It was also recognized by the lay community with extensive press coverage including CNN, NYT, Forbes. She is the Director of the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Genotyping and Genetics for Population Sciences Facility, the co-leader of the National Cancer Institute supported Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium (E2C2) and the Editor-In-Chief of the internationally recognized journal Cancer Causes and Control.
Time: Friday, May 26, 14.00-15.00
Location: Fróði auditorium, Sturlugata 8