Raymund Wellinger - Professor, Microbiologist, Geneticist
Will humans ever be immortal? Able to live forever? The when, the how and he why not!"
Raymund Wellinger is a full Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sherbrooke and also a Chercheur-National recognized by the FRSQ (Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec). He is part of a successful research group investigating RNP particles, member of the Oncology group at the Clinical Research Center of the CHUS and co-directs a large scale effort directed at elucidating RNA splicing at a genomic level, funded in part by Genome Canada. Raymund Wellinger received his training at the Swiss Institute of Experimental Cancer Research in Lausanne (Switzerland) and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, (Seattle USA, 1987-1993), being part of one of the world’s leading laboratories working on telomere biology. In the past, he established new methods to analyze telomere dynamics and was one of the first to describe chromosomal DNA end-structures and telomere-associated proteins in eukaryotes. Raymund Wellinger collaborates with top laboratories around the world and his research resulted in five patents and over twenty publications in prestigious journals like Cell, Science, Nature Genetics, Molecular and Cellular Biology and EMBO Journal. Raymund Wellinger is a member of the board of directors of the FRSQ and played an active role as a member of peer review committees for research grants submitted to the NIH (USA), the CIHR (Canada) and the FRSQ. Raymund Wellinger also often reviews manuscripts submitted to scientific journals such as Nature, Science, Cell, Genes and Development, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
Telomeres are the structures at the very ends of the linear chromosomes that make up our genome. These structures are essential for the integrity of chromosomes and cell survival. For example, without telomeres, chromosome ends are recognized as broken DNA, which, if left unrepaired, can ultimately lead to cell death. Telomere function requires molecules involved in the maintenance and synthesis of telomeric repeats, as well as molecules involved in protecting the ultimate end of telomeres, so called capping molecules. In addition, telomeric DNA is composed of special repeated elements. The presence of a certain minimal number of these telomeric repeats is also essential for telomere function. For humans, the number of these telomeric repeats is a crucial determinant for the replicative potential of cells. During each cell division, part of this telomeric DNA is lost, causing telomeres to shorten. After a certain number of divisions, normal somatic cells succumb to senescence: telomeres are critically short, have probably lost critical functional elements and, as a consequence, chromosomes become unstable and the cells die (the Hayflick limit). In contrast, cancerous cells have overcome this problem during their progression to immortalization: their telomeres do not shorten upon cell division and remain functional, providing cancer cells with an unlimited division potential. Telomere-shortening or -destabilization is therefore one of the most promising way of interfering with the growth of all types of cancer cells.
The research in Raymund Wellinger’s lab concerns various issues related to telomere biology. He wants to understand how telomere duplication is coordinated with the duplication of the rest of the genome and also, how the telomeres protect chromosome ends from being detected as DNA damage. Furthermore, he has initiated a project aimed at the elucidation of how a special enzyme, called telomerase, works inside a cell.