h+ Magazine on Telomeres and Telomerase

An introductory article at h+ Magazine looks at the role of telomeres and telomerase in aging: "Several thousand studies have been published on telomeres and telomerase, which are now known to maintain genomic stability, prevent the inappropriate activation of DNA damage pathways, partially determine disease susceptibility/resistance and regulate cellular and organism-wide viability and aging. Telomerase expression [in conjunction with other genetic alterations] also extends the lifespan and reverses senescence-associated pathologies in mice. ... In humans telomere length and integrity plays a role in some diseases, disease susceptibility, aging and even in mediating the deleterious effects of long-term psychological stress. Several human genetic diseases are caused by alterations in telomerase function. For example, individuals with dyskeratosis congenita (DC) ... Many aspects of DC resemble normal aging, although at an accelerated rate. Individuals with DC are born with unusually short telomeres and not surprisingly, the expression of unmutated telomerase in DC cells corrects many of their molecular defects and lengthens their telomeres. ... Normal cellular telomerase expression is insufficient to prevent telomere shortening with each cell division and hence, telomeres shorten with aging, eventually causing age-related changes. The process is complex, and different cell types and organs show different rates of telomere shortening, although overall telomere shorten most rapidly in growing cell populations. Interestingly, high telomere stability correlates with human longevity while caloric restriction (the only known intervention that increases the [maximum] mammalian lifespan), reduces the rate of telomere shortening, although it does not increase telomerase expression. Last, malignant tumors overexpress telomerase, allowing them to grow indefinitely. One reason why most normal cells of the human body do not express high levels of telomerase might be to prevent cancer."

Link: http://hplusmagazine.com/2011/03/28/telomeres-telomerase-and-aging/


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