How Are Telomeres Transforming The Way We Look At Aging And Cancer Treatment?

How Are Telomeres Transforming The Way We Look At Aging And Cancer Treatment?


In the core or nucleus of a cell, our genes are situated on twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA called chromosomes and towards the ends of the chromosomes are sections of DNA called telomeres, that shield our own genetic data, make it easy for cells to divide, as well as keep some secrets to the way we age and acquire cancer. Telomeres could be the key to our better understanding aging and cancer growth.

Telomeres are actually compared with the plastic tip covers on shoelaces simply because they prevent hromosome tips from tearing and sticking with one another, that would scramble an organism’s genetic encoded information to bring about cancer, other conditions or death.

Yet, each time a cell divides, the telomeres become shorter. Once they get too short, the cell will not be able to divide and ceases to be active or “senescent” or dies. The process is part of aging, cancer and a greater risk of death. So telomeres also have been compared to a bomb fuse.

What are telomeres?

How Are Telomeres Transforming The Way We Look At Aging And Cancer Treatment?
How Are Telomeres Transforming The Way We Look At Aging And Cancer Treatment?

Similar to the rest of a chromosome and its genes, telomeres really are chains of DNA – chains of chemical code. Like other DNA, they’re consist of four nucleic acid bases: G for guanine, A for adenine, T for thymine and C for cytosine.

Telomeres are constructed with repeating chains of TTAGGG on a single strand of DNA attached to AATCCC on the other half strand. Thus, one section of telomere is a “repeat” made of half a dozen “base sets.”

In human blood cells, the duration of telomeres ranges from 8,000 base pairs at birth to three thousand base pairs as people age and as low as 1,500 in elderly people. (A full chromosome has approximately 150 million base pairs.) Each time a cell divides, a typical person loses between 30 and 200 base pairs on the ends of the cell’s telomeres.

Cells normally can separate only about 50 to 70 times, with telomeres getting progressively shorter till the cells become senescent, die or sustain genetic damage that could cause cancer.

Telomeres do not shorten with age in tissues such as heart muscle in which cells do not continually divide.

So why do chromosomes have telomeres?

Without telomeres, the primary section of the chromosome – the component containing genes needed for life – would get shorter every time a cell separates. So telomeres allow cells to divide without shedding genes. Cell division is needed so you can grow fresh skin, blood, bone and other cells as required.

Without telomeres, chromosome ends could fuse together and degrade the cell’s genetic blueprint, causing the cell malfunction, become cancerous or die. Because deffective DNA is dangerous, a cell contains the power to sense and repair chromosome damage. Without telomeres, the ends of chromosomes would appear like broken DNA, plus the cell would attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken. That also would make them stop dividing and over time die.

Why do telomeres get shorter whenever a cell splits?

Prior to any cell could split , the chromosomes inside of it are duplicated so that each one of the two brand new cells contains identical genetic material. A chromosome’s 2 strands of DNA must unwind and separate. An enzyme (DNA polymerase) then begins to make 2 brand new lengths of DNA to match each one of the two unwound strands. It does this with the help involving short pieces of RNA. When each new matching strand is completed, it is a bit smaller than the original string because of the room needed at the end by this small section of RNA. It is just like someone who paints himself into a corner and cannot paint the corner.

Will anything at all deal with telomere shortening?

An enzyme named telomerase adds bases to the ends of telomeres. In young cells, telomerase keeps telomeres from breaking down so much. But as cells separate frequently, there isn’t enough telomerase, and so the telomeres grow reduced and also the cells age.

Telomerase continues to be active in sperm and eggs, which are handed down from one generation to the next. If reproductive cells did not possess telomerase to keep up the length of their telomeres, any organism with this kind of cells soon would not exist.

Is there a role that telomeres play in cancer?

As a cell begins to become dangerous, it splits more frequently, and its particular telomeres become very short. If its telomeres get way too short, the cell may kick the bucket. It could possibly escape this fate by becoming a cancer cell as well as activating an enzyme called telomerase, which usually prevents the telomeres from becoming even shorter.

Researchers have found shortened telomeres in lots of cancers, which includes pancreatic, bone, prostate, bladder, lung, kidney, and head and neck.

Calculating telomerase might be a completely new approach to detect cancer. If scientists can learn to cease telomerase, they may be in a position to battle cancer by causing cancer cells in order to get older and also pass away . Within a experiment, researchers blocked telomerase activity in human breast and prostate cancer cells growing inside the laboratory, prompting the tumor cells to die. But you will discover risks. Blocking telomerase could hinder fertility, wound healing, and output of blood cells and disease fighting capability cells.

What about telomeres as well as aging?

Geneticist Richard Cawthon and colleagues with the University of Utah found shorter telomeres are associated with shorter lives. Among people older than 60, people that have shorter telomeres were 3 times very likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease.

While telomere shortening has been linked to the process of getting older, it’s not yet known whether shorter telomeres are a sign of aging – like gray hair – or actually bring about aging.

In the event that telomerase makes cancer cells immortal, could it prevent normal cells from aging? Could we extend lifespan by preserving or restoring the size of telomeres with telomerase? If that’s the case, does that elevate a risk the telomerase also will cause cancer?

Scientists are not yet sure. Nevertheless they are actually able to make use of telomerase to create human cells keep dividing far beyond their normal limit in laboratory experiments, and the cells do not become cancerous.

If telomerase could possibly be used routinely to “immortalize” human cells, it could be theoretically possible to mass produce any human cell for transplantation, including insulin-producing cells to cure diabetes patients, muscle cells for muscular dystrophy, cartilage cells for people with certain kinds of arthritis, as well as skin cells for people who have severe burns and wounds. Efforts to evaluate new drugs and gene therapies also can be helped by a limitless availability of normal human cells grown in the laboratory.

How big a role do telomeres play in the aging process?

Some long-lived species like humans have telomeres which can be much shorter than species like mice, which live just a few years. Nobody yet still knows why. But it is evidence that telomeres alone do not dictate lifespan.

Cawthon’s study found that when people are split into a couple of groups depending on telomere size, the group with longer telomeres survives 5 years more time than others with shorter telomeres. That suggests life-span might be increased five years by increasing the length of telomeres in people who have shorter ones.

People who have longer telomeres continue to experience telomere shortening as they age. How many years could possibly be added to our life-span by completely ending telomere shortening? Cawthon believes a decade and maybe 30 years.

After a person is over the age of sixty, their risk of passing away doubles with each and every 8 years of age. So a 68-year-old has 2x the potential risk of death during a year compared with a 60-year-old. Cawthon’s study observed that variations in telomere length included only four% of the difference. Even though intuition tells us older people have a higher risk of dying, only an additional 6 percent corresponds strictly to chronological age. Whenever telomere length, chronological age and gender are combined (women live longer than men), those factors account for thirty seven percent in the variance in the chance of death after sixty years old. So what on earth causes the other 63%?

An important reason for aging is “oxidative stress.” It is the harm to DNA, proteins and lipids (fatty substances) caused by oxidants, that are highly reactive substances containing oxygen. These kinds of oxidants are produced commonly whenever we breathe, and also result from inflammation, infection and usage of alcohol and cigarettes. In a single study, scientists exposed worms to 2 substances that counteract oxidants, and then the worms’ lifespan increased a typical 44%.

Another factor in aging is “glycation.” It happens when glucose sugar from what we eat binds to some of your DNA, proteins and lipids, leaving them not able to do their jobs. The challenge becomes worse as we get older, causing body tissues to malfunction, causing sickness and death. This could explain why research in numerous laboratory animals indicate that restricting calorie consumption extends lifespan.

It’s possible oxidative stress, glycation, telomere shortening and chronological age – along with various genes – all work together to cause aging.

What are the chances for human life extension?

The lifespan of humans has elevated considerably since the 1600s, when the lifespan of humans was thirty years. By 1998, the life expectancy of the average American was seventy six. The reason why included sewers and also other sanitation measures, antibiotics, clean water, refrigeration, vaccines along with other medical efforts to prevent youngsters from dying, improved diets along with better health care.

Quite a few scientists think human life expectancy continues to grow, although few believe the typical will exceed 90. But a few predict vastly longer lifespans are probable.

Studies have shown that that if all processes of maturing could possibly be eliminated in addition to oxidative stress damage could possibly be fixed, “some scientists estimate that individuals may well live one thousand years.”


2 Replies to “How Are Telomeres Transforming The Way We Look At Aging And Cancer Treatment?”

Leave a Reply