Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


CNIO scientists have created mice with hyper-long telomeres without altering the genes


CNIO scientists have created mice with telomeres that are longer than those of the unmodified species, show fewer signs of molecular aging and a have a lower incidence of cancer

The Telomeres and Telomerase Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), in collaboration with the Centre's Transgenic Mice Core Unit, has succeeded in creating mice in the laboratory with hyper-long telomeres and with reduced molecular ageing, avoiding the use of what to date has been the standard method: genetic manipulation. This new technique based on epigenetic changes that is described today in the pages of Nature Communications, avoids the manipulation of genes in order to delay molecular ageing. The study also underlines the importance of this new strategy in generating embryonic stem cells and iPS cells with long telomeres for use in regenerative medicine.

This is a representative image from the intestine of chimeric mice. Green cells are those with hyper-long telomeres. Telomeres appear in red.

Credit: Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO)

Telomeres (the protective structures located at the ends of chromosomes) are essential to the stability of our genetic material and to maintain the "youthful state" of our cells and of our bodies. However, telomeres get shorter as we age. Once they reach a critical length, cells enter a state of senescence or die. This is one of the molecular causes of cellular ageing and of the emergence of ageing-related diseases.

On the other hand, when telomeres are extra-long - as achieved for the first time by the CNIO group headed by Maria A. Blasco using the expression of the telomerase gene - they exert a protective role against ageing and ageing-related diseases, thus significantly extending the lives of the mice.


We must go back to the year 2009 when, in a paper published by the CNIO Telomeres and Telomerase Group in the journal Cell Stem Cell, they described that the in vitro culture of iPS cells caused the progressive lengthening of telomeres, to the point of generating what the authors called "hyper-long telomeres". Sometime later, in 2011, Elisa Varela (also first author of this above-mentioned paper) and her colleagues at the CNIO, published a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) stating that this phenomenon also occurs spontaneously in embryonic stem cells when cultured in vitro.

"The in vitro expansion of the embryonic stem cells results in the elongation of the telomeres up to twice their normal length" explained the authors. A lengthening that occurs thanks to the active natural mechanisms without alterations in the telomerase gene.

However, would these cells be capable of developing into a mouse with telomeres that are much longer than normal and that would age more slowly? In the paper published today in Nature Communications, Elisa Varela and her colleagues prove that this is the case.


The cells with hyper-long telomeres in these mice appear to be perfectly functional. When the tissues were analysed at various moments (0, 1, 6 and 12 months of life), these cells maintained the additional length scale (they shortened over time but at a normal rhythm), accumulated less DNA damage and had a greater capacity to repair any damage. In addition, the animals presented a lower tumour incidence than normal mice.

These results show that pluripotent stem cells that carry hyper-long telomeres can give rise to organisms with telomeres that remain young at the molecular level for longer. According to the authors, this "proof of concept means that it is possible to generate adult tissue with longer telomeres in the absence of genetic modifications".

"Our work also demonstrates that it is possible to generate iPS cells - explains Blasco - with longer telomeres that would turn into differentiated cells also with longer telomeres and that would, therefore, be better protected against damage". This would be of benefit to the field of regenerative medicine; teams are now studying how to use iPS cells to generate adult cell types for cell therapy.

The next step that the CNIO Telomeres and Telomerase Group is already working on will be to "generate a new species of mice in which the telomeres of all the cells are twice as long as those in normal mice", explain Blasco and Varela. "Then, we will be able to address some of the important questions that remain unanswered: would a mouse species with telomeres that are double in length live longer? Is this the mechanism that is used by nature to determine different longevities in genetically similar species? Would this new species present a higher or lower incidence of cancer?


The study has been funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, the European Research Council (ERC), the Regional Government of Madrid, the AXA Research Fund, and the Botín Foundation and Banco Santander through Santander Universities.

Media Contact

Nuria Noriega


Nuria Noriega | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: CNIO Telomerase embryonic stem cells genes iPS cells regenerative medicine

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Steering a fusion plasma toward stability

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Activation of 2 genes linked to development of atherosclerosis

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>