Telomere stress reveals insight into ageing

Telomere stress reveals insight into ageing

Scientists at Newcastle University have unlocked clues that give us a greater understanding of the ageing process. 

In research published in the journal , the team, led by Dr. João Passos, has shown that stress-induced damage to the ends of our chromosomes may be an important factor.

in our bodies divide to replace cells that are worn out or damaged. During this division, copies of our genetic material are passed on to the next generation of cells. The genetic information inside cells is arranged in twisted strands of DNA called chromosomes and at the end of these strands is a protective 'cap'. Previous research has shown that telomeres get shorter each time a cell divides. This shortening has been linked to the aging process because cells are no longer able to divide past a critical minimum telomere length.

While current thinking on how telomeres affect ageing has focused mainly on telomere length, this new research highlights that there is considerably more to the story.

Dr. João Passos said: "As we age, telomeres do indeed get shorter, and premature shortening of telomeres heightens the risk of diseases and death. However, our findings show that telomeres in both humans and mice are particularly susceptible to DNA damage and that stress-induced damage to telomeres, even long ones, is irreparable and increases with age."

As we grow old, cells progressively accumulate damage to DNA - the molecule containing the genetic information that is necessary for the development and functioning of all living organisms. However, this damage - which is mostly caused by free radicals - can be fixed by the cells repair machinery.

The research is the outcome of Dr. Passos’ Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded David Phillips Fellowship.

The Newcastle University discovery shows that ends of chromosomes are particularly sensitive to stress and are not so efficiently repaired. Damage within telomeric regions remains unrepaired and this helps to explain why cells lose their ability to regenerate as they age.

"This discovery improves our understanding of how telomeres impact on cellular ageing. We now know that telomeres are unusual in the way they respond to damage and that it is not only their length that counts as our cells age", said Dr. Passos. "Future research will need to focus on unravelling the properties which make these regions of the genome so special, so that we can devise therapies to improve telomere repair." 

Provided by Newcastle University

5 /5 (8 votes)

Related Stories

Ultra short telomeres linked to osteoarthritis

Jan 16, 2012

Telomeres, the very ends of chromosomes, become shorter as we age. When a cell divides it first duplicates its DNA and, because the DNA replication machinery fails to get all the way to the end, with each successive cell ...

Position of telomeres in nucleus influences length

Jul 13, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A study the latest issue of Nature Cell Biology sheds light on the mechanism controlling telomere length in budding yeast. In this publication, scientists from the Friedrich Miescher Instit ...

Immortal worms defy aging

Feb 27, 2012

Researchers from The University of Nottingham have demonstrated how a species of flatworm overcomes the ageing process to be potentially immortal.

Why chromosomes never tie their shoelaces

Sep 08, 2010

In the latest issue of the journal Nature, Miguel Godinho Ferreira, Principal Investigator at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC) in Portugal, lead a team of researchers to shed light on a paradox that has puzzled biolog ...

Recommended for you

Protein in plasma may one day change transfusions

3 hours ago

In injured mice, the naturally occurring protein fibronectin is instrumental in stopping bleeding but interestingly also at preventing life-threatening blood clots – according to new research published ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

truth4life
not rated yet Mar 01, 2012
What is the stress factor being allured to? Is it physical, mental or even perhaps cellular? The reason I ask, if it is physical such as in exercise, then that would be a significant impact on exertion of the human body. To me, I find this impractical since the very act of resistance training does build muscle. Curious on the thoughts of others on the subject. We all would like to live longer
Tausch
not rated yet Mar 04, 2012
http://www.physor...ing.html

Note the commentary thread. An astute reader highlights the immortality of human stem cells.