Global Technology - March 2018

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Now, let’s examine the most important technological and scientific breakthroughs emerging from labs around the world.

Can we stay young forever, or recapture lost youth?  Researchers at Arizona State University recently came a closer to answering that question in the affirmative.

They uncovered a crucial step in the telomerase enzyme catalytic cycle which determines the ability of the human telomerase enzyme to synthesize specific DNA segments of six nucleotides, called “DNA repeats,” onto chromosome ends and thereby enable immortality in cells.  Understanding this mechanism of telomerase action offers new avenues toward effective anti-aging therapeutics.

Typical human cells are mortal and cannot forever renew themselves.  This limit on cellular lifespan is directly related to the number of so-called “DNA repeats” found at the ends of 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 and they eventually fail to secure the chromosome ends. This continuous reduction of telomere length functions as a “molecular clock” that counts down to the end of cell growth.  The diminished ability for cells to grow is strongly associated with the aging process, with the reduced cell population is directly contributing to weakness, illness, and organ failure.

Counteracting the telomere shrinking process is the enzyme, telomerase, that uniquely holds the key to delaying or even reversing the cellular aging process. Telomerase offsets cellular aging by lengthening the telomeres, adding back lost DNA repeats to add time onto the molecular clock countdown, effectively extending the lifespan of the cell. Telomerase lengthens telomeres by repeatedly synthesizing very short DNA repeats of six nucleotides—the building blocks of DNA—with the sequence “GGTTAG” onto the chromosome ends from an RNA template located within the enzyme itself. However, the activity of the telomerase enzyme is insufficient to completely restore the lost telomeric DNA repeats, nor to stop cellular...

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