Part II: Telomeres and Telomerase in Human Stem Cells and in Cancer
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Telomerase, a specialized ribonucleprotein reverse transcriptase, is important for long-term eukaryotic cell proliferation and genomic stability, because it replenishes the DNA at telomeres. Thus, depending on cell type telomerase partially or completely (depending on cell type) counteracts the progressive shortening of telomeres that otherwise occurs. Telomerase is highly active in many human malignancies, and a potential target for anti-cancer approaches. Furthermore, recent collaborative studies have shown the relationship between accelerated telomere shortening and life stress and that low telomerase levels are associated with six prominent risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Prof. Blackburn is a leader in the area of telomere and telomerase research. She discovered the molecular nature of telomeres-the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving the genetic information – and discovered the enzyme telomerase, which replenishes telomeres.