Docs Discover Key Factor in Aging Process: Researchers Have Found an Enzyme That Could Help Doctors Fight Age-Related Disorders

By Larson, Ruth | Insight on the News, March 2, 1998 | Go to article overview

Docs Discover Key Factor in Aging Process: Researchers Have Found an Enzyme That Could Help Doctors Fight Age-Related Disorders


Larson, Ruth, Insight on the News


Researchers have found an

enzyme that could help doctors

fight age-related disorders.

Researchers in Texas have found

what they say is a "fountain of

youth" for the human cell -- an

enzyme that in laboratory experiments

halts the normal aging process. While

the discovery will not make people

younger, it could help them stay

healthy.

"Is this going to immortalize us?

No, it's not," says Woodring E. Wright,

professor of cell biology at the University

of Texas Southwestern Medical

Center in Dallas and senior author of

the study. "But it is one factor in the

aging process."

Wright and his colleagues found

that an enzyme halts the normal

biological clocks of cells and enables

them to continue dividing, thereby

prolonging their life. "The research

raises the possibility that we could

take a patient's own cells, rejuvenate

them, then modify the cells as needed

and give them back to the patient to

treat a variety of genetic and other

diseases," says Wright. Scientists hope

the discovery will help control age-related

disorders from cardiovascular

disease to muscular dystrophy to skin

wrinkling.

Normal human cells have a limited

lifetime, during which they divide

about 70 times. For years, researchers

wondered how cells knew when to divide

and how they kept track of their

divisions.

Some researchers suspected cell

division was linked to telomeres,

repeated sequences of DNA on the

ends of chromosomes. Each time a

normal cell divides, the telomeres get

shorter -- until they become too short

to "protect" the chromosome. …

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