YAHOO – April 26, 2018: Elated scientists announced Wednesday (April 26) the completion of a 20-year quest to map the complex enzyme thought to forestall ageing by repairing the tips of chromosomes in plants and animals, including humans.
Decoding the architecture of the enzyme, called telomerase, could lead to drugs that slow or block the ageing process, along with new treatments for cancer, the scientists reported in the journal Nature.
It has been a long time coming,” lead investigator Kathleen Collins, a molecular biologist at the University of California in Berkley, said in a statement. And that their findings provide a structural framework for understanding human telomerase disease mutations, and represent an important step towards telomerase-related clinical therapeutics.
Part protein and part RNA – genetic material that relays instructions for building proteins – telomerase acts on microscopic sheaths, known as telomeres, that cover the tips of the chromosomes found inside all cells.
“Inherited genetic mutations that compromise telomerase function cause disorders,” said Michael Stone, a professor at the Center for Molecular Biology.
But early efforts to develop drugs that could control the enzyme’s expression — essentially switching it on or off — “were hampered by an incomplete understanding of the structure and organisation of the telomerase complex,” Stone added.