Telomere Engineering and Cell Therapies

From the Wall Street Journal: "a growing number of researchers have been seeking to understand how telomeres work. One feat researchers have accomplished in the lab is using telomerase to 'immortalize' human cells. Scientists [have] shown they can keep certain types of cells living forever, including those from the breast, skin, retina and, recently, the colon, by adding telomerase to keep telomeres intact or repair those that became too short. Now researchers are studying how telomerase-based therapies could help repair damaged cells and play an major role in cancer research. ... What our goal should be isn't increasing life span, but healthy life span. Is there some way we can intervene and slow down some of the problems? ... if a telomerase-based therapy could be given to specific cells temporarily, say for a week or two, it could be a therapeutic 'home run,' repairing telomeres and allowing cells to keep dividing ... Such a therapy - which would actually occur on a patients' own cells grown in a lab dish - could help people with conditions where cells have been injured and have used up their allotment of telomeres, such as anemia or skin sores or conditions involving inflammation. Many cancer researchers are trying to figure out how to turn off telomerase and potentially treat cancer. ... In experiments with lung cells, [scientists] are exploring how telomerase could be an alternative - and potentially easier - way of using stem cells to grow healthy tissue, without turning them all the way back to their embryonic state."


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