Manipulations with telomerase, an enzyme vital for proper cell division, can make cells virtually immortal as well as fight and prevent cancer. But in order to do so, scientists first have to understand its structure.
Russian biologists from Moscow State University have recently published a study devoted to the structure of part of the telomerase enzyme. One of the authors noted that the study will help develop treatments that can both stimulate or inhibit the enzyme’s activity.
Telomerase is required for the proper duplication of the DNA peptides via RNA. It is normally active in the parts of the body that require frequent or constant cell multiplication with proper DNA inheritance, such as stem cells or reproductive cells. Its activity “thickens” its layer overtime and, although it can regenerate, its activity decreases over time, preventing proper cell divisions and resulting in ageing.
What is even more curious is that cancer cells most of the times have this enzyme in an activated state, which leads scientists to the assumption that cancer may begin with the improper activation of telomerase in normal cells.
This indicates that manipulations with telomerase’s activity may lead to major breakthroughs, such as fighting and preventing both cancer and cell ageing. However, scientists first need to fully understand its structure and how it functions. The Russian team’s success is another step on this long and arduous, but important, path.