Telomeres in Disease

Online Magazine The Scientist included a nice piece on telomeres in their May 2012 issue, explaining how they change as we age and contribute to things like cancer.


“The ends of linear chromosomes have attracted serious scientific study—and Nobel Prizes—since the early 20th century. Called telomeres, these ends serve to protect the coding DNA of the genome. When a cell’s telomeres shorten to critical lengths, the cell senesces. Thus, telomeres dictate a cell’s life span—unless something goes wrong. Work over the past several decades has revealed an active, though limited, mechanism for the normal enzymatic repair of telomere loss in certain proliferative cells.  Telomere lengthening in cancer cells, however, confers an abnormal proliferative ability.

In addition to cancer, telomeres have been found to be involved in numerous other diseases, including liver dysfunction and aplastic anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow does not produce a sufficient supply of new blood cells.  Inadequate telomere repair and accelerated telomere attrition can be molecular causes of these diseases, and targeting these processes may lead to the development of novel therapies…

Telomeres shorten as we age. By analogy to the cellular mitotic clock, telomeres have been postulated as a marker of “genetic age,” and telomere length has been marketed as a simple predictor of  longevity. ”

Read more:


About UWF Center on Aging

The Center on Aging at the University of West Florida was established in the Fall of 2010 when the School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences faculty along with assistance from Sponsored Research submitted a grant to the State University System Board of Governors in support of aging initiatives for Northwest Florida. Its mission is to improve the quality of life of aging adults through the application of science to address challenges associated with aging and to promote healthy aging, with an emphasis on prevention. This will be accomplished through inter-disciplinary and inter-professional efforts of basic and applied research, consultation, and partnerships with community agencies. Education and training, direct services to the aging population, and public awareness and understanding of the contributions and needs of elders will be primary objectives.
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