Those of you who follow telomere research in connection with healthy life extension efforts should find this interesting - recent research that extends our understanding of human telomeres and poses a whole new set of questions:
According to Cech, the findings raise important questions about the regulation of telomerase. When telomeric DNA is buried within POT1, telomerase cannot access the DNA to elongate the telomere. "This is something that could keep the cell from making telomeres all day long," he said. "We think this is one level at which telomerase is regulated." Therefore, he said, an important next step will be to determine the cellular mechanism that switches the telomere to the on state so that elongation can occur.
It turns out that human telomere structure is quite different from that of yeast (that researchers had previously been using as a conceptual model for understanding human cellular mechanisms).
One of the engineering methods required for Aubrey de Grey's proposed methodology of reversing aging is lengthening telomeres, since the gradual shortening of telomere length with age is apparently a mechanism by which cancer becomes more common in older people. (On the other hand, rampant lengthening of telomeres is also a good way for cancer to get going, since telomeres control the normal process of cell senescence and turnover in cell populations within the body). How do we work towards lengthening telomeres throughout the body in a reliable, controlled, safe way? Well, we start by determining how human telomeres are structured - as in the work described in this post.