Telomerase is an enzyme that helps maintain the telomeres, the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protects the chronomose.
Telomeres are like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces, without which, the shoelaces become frayed until they are no longer capable of doing their job.
Telomerase Links To Aging And Cancer
Just like the plastic tips on shoelaces, telomeres ground down until such time that there is nothing left. This is why it is indicative of cellular aging. The shorter the telomeres, the older the cells and the person the cells belong to.
Researchers have long speculated a link between telomerase and aging and cancer. Because telomerase appears associated with aging, researchers hope that it might be possible to take advantage of it.
Importance Of Knowing The Structure And Shape Of Telomerase
It will also be easier to develop telomerase-based drugs if people knew what it looks like. The structure and shape of the telomerase, for instance, can offer hints at spaces where the drug can potentially bind to, or how the drug may interact.
In a new study, scientists unraveled what the telomerase looks like. In a new study published in the journal Nature, Thi Hoang Duong "Kelly" Nguyen, from UC Berkeley, and colleagues described the structure of telomerase in detail.
No telomerase-based anti-aging and cancer drugs have yet been developed. However, the researchers said that a detailed picture of the molecular structure of the telomerase could make the development of drugs that can fight cancer and delay aging possible.
"The best previous images of human telomerase had a resolution of only 30 Ångstroms; we were able to get about 7 to 8 Ångstroms resolution using cryoelectron microscopy," said Nguyen. "When I got to the point where I could see all the subunits - we had 11 protein subunits in total - it was a moment of, 'Wow, wow, this is how they all fit together.'"
New Structure May Pave Way For Telomerase-Based Therapies
Researchers said that the newly revealed structure still lacks fine detail but coupled with knowledge of the gene sequence of telomerase, it can provide enough information that may pave way for telomerase-based therapies.
"Progress towards clinical manipulation of telomerase has been hampered by the lack of structural data," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published on April 25. "Our findings provide a structural framework for understanding human telomerase disease mutations and represent an important step towards telomerase-related clinical therapeutics."