Can we stay young forever, or even recapture lost youth?
Research from the laboratory of Professor Julian Chen in the School of Molecular Sciences at Arizona State University recently uncovered a crucial step in the telomerase enzyme catalytic cycle. This catalytic cycle determines the ability of the human telomerase enzyme to synthesize DNA “repeats” (specific DNA segments of six nucleotides) onto chromosome ends, and so afford immortality in cells. Understanding the underlying mechanism of telomerase action offers new avenues toward effective anti-aging therapeutics. illustration depicting the enzyme telomerase This figure depicts the enzyme telomerase as well as telomeres relative to a chromosome.
Typical human cells are mortal and cannot forever renew themselves. As demonstrated by Leonard Hayflick a half-century ago, human cells have a limited replicative lifespan, with older cells reaching this limit sooner than younger cells. This “Hayflick limit” of cellular lifespan is directly related to the number of unique DNA repeats found at the ends of the genetic material-bearing chromosomes. These DNA repeats are part of the protective capping structures, termed “telomeres,” which safeguard the ends of chromosomes from unwanted and unwarranted DNA rearrangements that destabilize the genome.
Each time the cell divides, the telomeric DNA shrinks
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