Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


2nd IFOM-IEO Campus Meeting on Cancer - New therapeutic anti-cancer strategies: shortening telomeres


Without the enzyme that “regenerates” telomeres (the ends of DNA), stem cells lose functionality and the organism rapidly ages, while it acquires cancer resistance. The finding, which has significant implications in cancer and aging research, was presented yesterday at the 2nd IFOM-IEO Campus Meeting on Cancer (May 5th – 8th, IFOM-IEO Campus, Milan, Italy) by Marìa A. Blasco, of the Spanish National Cancer Center (CNIO) in Madrid (Spain).

Our cells’ DNA has a sort of “tail”: the telomeres. Every time our cells divide, telomeres get shorter and shorter. This progressive telomere shortening is compensated by the action of a specific enzyme, called “telomerase”, which is able to regenerate the tails; but in our cells there is not enough telomerase to keep telomeres at a constant length during our lifetime. And when telomeres get too short, cells stop replicating. Scientists have long hypothesized (and partially proved, with several experiments) that telomere shortening is correlated, on the one hand, to the general aging of the body (when many cells in a tissue stop replicating, the tissue becomes unable to regenerate itself and gets “old”) and, on the other hand, to cancer (tumour cells replicate much more than normal cells, therefore they need some mechanism to counteract natural telomere shortening).

To make the picture even more complicated, stem cells (the other big “stars” of modern biology research) might be the only cells that are able to produce the enzyme telomerase. Intuitively this makes sense, since stem cells are the “mother cells” of all cells, and they are necessary to the body to regenerate tissues and organs during lifetime. But, what is the role of telomerase in stem cells? And what could happen if the enzyme is absent? To answer these questions, Blasco and colleagues set up a series of experiments in mice. And they found that the lack of telomerase causes a severe defect in the fundamental functions of stem cells. “In particular – Blasco said – we have been looking at skin stem cells. And we observed that, in genetically modified mice that did not express telomerase, stem cells lost their functionality and became unable to regenerate the damaged epithelial tissue. On the whole, these mice aged more rapidly than normal mice. But, there was a very interesting side effect: without telomerase, mice showed a marked cancer resistance.” Further experiments on telomeres structure showed that every time the shortening process is altered, the result is either “early aging and cancer resistance” (if shortening is boosted), or “aging inhibition and more cancer occurrence” (if shortening is reduced).

“In our lab – Blasco added – we do basic research, but our results provide fundamental knowledge to those who work on the development of new therapeutic tools. In this very moment, preclinical trials are being carried out on drugs that are able to boost the action of telomerase. The potential anti-aging effect of these drugs might prove useful in the treatment of diseases such as AIDS, where tissues age rapidly. In tumours, it is necessary to implement the opposite strategy: there are drugs, now in clinical trials, that inhibit telomerase action and increase telomeres shortening.” In the light of the new finding, such therapy might prove to be effective against cancer stem cells, that today are considered the most “malignant” culprit of cancer.

Francesca Noceti | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

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: 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...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

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

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>