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Telomerase enzyme mapping may help fight cancer, aging


Narrator:       This is Science Today. When UCLA and University of California, Berkeley, researchers recently created the first visual map of the telomerase enzyme, it was a great feat because of the enzyme's ability to maintain telomeres, which are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes and play a role in cancer. Edward Miracco, who is an NIH postdoctoral fellow at UCLA, says usually cells can detect if it starts losing information at the ends of the chromosome and it commits suicide. 

Miracco:         But basically cancer cells are able to evade that because they can elongate the ends of their chromosomes and so if you can inhibit this enzyme, you can effectively slow down the progression of cancer without seriously hurting the normal healthy cells in your body. And that's why everyone is very excited about it from a cancer standpoint.

Narrator:       There are also implications for aging, since every time a cell divides the telomere gets shorter.

Miracco:         And it acts as a biological clock. From that standpoint, if we could effectively develop a treatment to elongate telomeres and that led to a decrease in the medical issues that come from aging, then that would be great.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.