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Susan Lindquist

Susan Lindquist is a well-known molecular biologist studying (among other things) the effects of protein folding and heat-shock proteins.

Lindquist is best known for her research that provided strong evidence for a new form of genetics based upon the inheritance of proteins with new, self-perpetuating shapes rather than new DNA sequences. This provided a biochemical framework for understanding other mysteries in biology, such as Alzheimer's Disease and Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease. She is considered to be an expert in protein folding, which, as explained by Lindquist in the following excerpt from a lecture, is a rather serious problem:

"What do "mad cows", people with neurodegenerative diseases, and an unusual type of inheritance in yeast have in common? They are all experiencing the consequences of misfolded proteins. ... In humans the consequences can be deadly, leading to such devastating illnesses as Alzheimer's Disease. In one case, the misfolded protein is not only deadly to the unfortunate individual in which it has appeared, but it can apparently be passed from one individual to another under special circumstances - producing infectious neurodegenerative diseases such as mad-cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease in humans."

from "From Mad Cows to 'Psi-chotic' Yeast: A New Paradigm in Genetics" given on November 10, 1999

Lindquist worked on the PSI+ element in yeast (a prion) and how it can act as a switch that hides or reveals numerous mutations throughout the genome, thus acting as a genetic capacitor. She also proposed that a heat shock protein may act in the same way, normally preventing phenotypic consequences of genetic changes, but showing all changes at once when the HSP system is overloaded.

Recently, Lindquist has also made advances in nanotechnology, researching organic fibers capable of self-organizing into structures smaller than manufactured materials.

Biography

Lindquist received her PhD in biology from Harvard in 1976, was the Albert D. Lasker Professor of Medical Sciences in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago, and is now a professor of biology at MIT.

Awards



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