The research lab of Brittney-Shea Herbert, PhD studies the roles of telomeres and telomerase in aging and cancer.
The Herbert Lab is focused on researching the genetic mechanisms of aging and cancer, including the mechanisms of how normal cells can immortalize and become tumorigenic.
Telomerase, a cellular reverse transcriptase, has been shown to maintain the chromosomal ends (telomeres) which allows for an unlimited cellular lifespan. Immortal cells and over 90% of human cancers contain telomerase activity, while telomerase activity is undetectable in most somatic cells. Induced expression of telomerase results in the immortalization of normal cells and these cells can be expanded and induced to differentiate. Conversely, inhibition of telomerase in cancer cells results in telomere shortening, reduction of cell growth, tumor formation, and metastases in vitro and in vivo. Therefore, telomerase represents not only a tool for regenerative biology, but also a target for cancer therapy.