In a press release today, NCCAM announced that Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Ph.D. of UCSF, a co-winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, is at work under an NCCAM grant studying “mindfulness-based stress reduction in addressing stress and obesity.”

With the NCCAM grant, Dr. Blackburn and her UCSF colleague and Principle Investigator Frederick Hecht, M.D. will “investigate the utility of a form of meditation, known as mindfulness-based stress reduction, in addressing obesity and stress, both of which are associated with the shortening of telomeres.  Telomeres, the caps that protect the ends of chromosomes, and telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, are important in measuring cell age and lifespan.

“The study will be one of the first to test the effects of meditation and stress reduction on cell aging.”

Telomeres and telomerase activity are Dr. Blackburn’s area of specialization.  She shared the Nobel award with Carol W. Greider, Ph.D, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Jack W. Szostak, Ph.D, of Massachusetts General Hospital.  The NIH release regarding the award reads in part:

“The three researchers, supported by NIH funding for decades, are honored for discovering how telomeres, through the enzyme telomerase, protect chromosomes against degradation. Their discoveries added a new dimension to the scientific community’s understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and introduced new directions for the development of potential new therapies.”

The full NIH statement on the the Nobel Prize is here.