Telomeres And TelomeraseThe Secret To Aging And Cancer Geneticist Richard Cawthon says “One estimate is people could live 1,000 years” By: Rohan Parikh
Telomeres Telomeres main function is by preventing chromosomes from losing base pair sequences at their ends. They also stop chromosomes from fusing to each other. Telomeres are the repeating sequences of DNA Example-(TTAGGG). In human blood cells, each time a cell divides, an average person loses about 115 base pairs from the ends of that cell's telomeres. The length of telomeres is about 8,000 base pairs at birth. As people age they can have as low as 1,500 in elderly people.
How Are Telomeres Related To Aging & Cancer Aging- Geneticist Richard Cawthon did an experiment where he divided people in to two groups, one group of people with long telomeres and one group of people with short telomeres. He found that the group with long telomeres lived longer and were healthier than those with shorter telomeres. He concluded that telomeres play a key role in aging and overall health. Cancer-If a cell begins to become cancerous, it divides more often, and its telomeres become very short. If its telomeres get too short, the cell could die. Studies have found shortened telomeres in many cancers, including pancreatic, bone, prostate, bladder, lung, kidney, and head and neck.
Telomerase Telomerase (telomere terminal transferase) is an enzyme made of protein and RNA that help chromosomes by adding TTAGGG sequences to the end of existing chromosomes to keep telomeres. Telomerase is found in fetal tissues, adult germ cells and also tumor cells. In young cells, telomerase keeps telomeres from wearing down too much. But as cells divide repeatedly, there is not enough telomerase, so the telomeres grow shorter and the cells age.
How Is Telomerase Related Aging and Cancer Aging-As cells divide repeatedly(50-70 times in their lifetime), there is not enough telomerase for all the divisions of the cell. The telomeres grow shorter and the cells age. Scientists have used telomerase to stop cells from aging. Cancer- The whole point of telomerase is to preserve telomeres by keep adding telomeres to the chromosome. And Telomerase has been increased in cancer cells, which means cancer cells are theoretically immortal. Scientists have used telomerase to divide cells far beyond the normal limit and the cells did not become cancerous.
Technology Behind Telomeres And Telomerase If telomerase makes cancer cells immortal, it could theoretically prevent normal cells from aging. We (humans) all have the gene to make telomerase, but it’s switched off. Scientists are exploring the possibility of inserting a gene for telomerase into aging cells or developing a drug to turn on the gene for telomerase. There is still research going on how to make the cancer cells stop getting telomerase.
In Theory Measuring telomerase may be a new way to detect cancer. If scientists can learn how to stop telomerase, they might be able to fight cancer by making cancer cells age and die. But there are risks. Blocking telomerase could impair fertility, stop healing, and production of blood cells and immune system cells. If telomerase could be used routinely to immortalize human cells, it would be theoretically possible to mass produce any human cell for transplantation.
Works Cited Genetic Science Learning Center. "Are Telomeres the Key toAging and Cancer?." Learn.Genetics 5 February 2011<http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/traits/telomeres/> . Aten, David. "What are telomeres and telomerase?." Shay/Wright Laboratory. N.p., September 6, 2007. Web. 5 Feb 2011. <http://www4.utsouthwestern.edu/cellbio/shay-wright/index.html>. "Graphic: Telomeres and Telomerase." Web. 5 Feb 2011. <http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=telomeres&view=detail&id=CA081E65DF5545037D3A1A34 968CBE3E0F21677&first=1&FORM=IDFRIR>. "Telomerase." Geron. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb 2011. <http://www.geron.com/technology/telomerase/telomerase.aspx>. "Regulation of telomere length in normal and cancer cells by telomerase." Web. 5 Feb 2011. <http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=telomermase&view=detail&id=5B39D66AE69E6D9E91BE578D843 781371DE3D58&first=1&FRM=IDFRIR>.