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The Long and Short of it

In cell division, telomeres and telomerase call the shots. But do they also hold the key to preventing cancer and aging?

By Cathryn Delude // Summer 2008
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When a cell divides, so does its DNA. Telomeres and telomerase not only ensure that the code is copied faithfully, but also determine when cells can and can't divide. When we’re young, telomerase keeps our telomeres long so DNA can be copied many times without losing its protective tips. But too much telomerase activity later in life can lead to uncontrolled cell division: cancer. As we age, telomerase production drops off; telomeres shorten, sending cells into senescence.

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Telomeres: DNA Unlaced

Telomeres, cancer and aging

Nobel Prize-winning work by Jack Szostak, Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn has shown that telomeres do damage control, preserving DNA and slowing aging. What happens if we extend their expiration date?

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