A Gene that Influences Aging, Cancer, and Inflammation
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An example of the way in which the machinery of cells is very intertwined, components reused by evolution in many different mechanisms: "This was certainly an unexpected finding. It is rather uncommon for one gene to have two very different and very significant functions that tie together control of aging and inflammation. The two, if not regulated properly, can eventually lead to cancer development. It's an exciting scientific find. ... For decades, the scientific community has known that inflammation, accelerated aging and cancer are somehow intertwined, but the connection between them has remained largely a mystery ... What was known [was] that a gene called AUF1 controls inflammation by turning off the inflammatory response to stop the onset of septic shock. But this finding, while significant, did not explain a connection to accelerated aging and cancer. When the researchers deleted the AUF1 gene, accelerated aging occurred, so they continued to focus their research efforts on the gene. ... The current study reveals that AUF1, a family of four related genes, not only controls the inflammatory response, but also maintains the integrity of chromosomes by activating the enzyme telomerase to repair the ends of chromosomes, thereby simultaneously reducing inflammation, preventing rapid aging and the development of cancer. ... [Researchers are now] examining human populations for specific types of genetic alterations in the AUF1 gene that are associated with the co-development of certain immune diseases, increased rates of aging and higher cancer incidence in individuals to determine exactly how the alterations manifest and present themselves clinically."

Link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524122851.htm

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