Human cancer cells divide and conquer. Unless physicians can control that division with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, the wildly dividing cells will eventually destroy a person's life.
Researchers have known for some time that an enzyme called telomerase is crucial to cancer's progress. Now, for the first time, researchers at the University of Georgia's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences have shown a mechanism that explains how two essential components of human telomerasenormally active only in early prenatal development but turned back on during cancer growthare "recruited" from distinct sites in the cell to the telomere, an area at the end of a chromosome that normally protects it from destruction.
"Telomerase is reactivated in more than 90 percent of human cancers," said Michael Terns, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and genetics at UGA, "and the fact that telomerase keeps these telomeres growing when it should be inactive is crucial for the proliferation of cancer. That makes telomerase a very promising target for a potential drug to stop cancers from spreading."
The research was just published in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell. Other authors on the paper were Rebecca Terns, a senior research scientist also in UGA's department of biochemistry and molecular biology (Michael and Rebecca Terns are a husband-wife team); Rebecca Tomlinson, a former doctoral student in the Terns Lab; Eladio Abreu, a current graduate student in the Terns lab; Tania Ziegler, also a former member of the Terns lab, now pursuing an M.D. degree; Hinh Ly of Emory University; and Christopher Counter of Duke University Medical Center. Rebecca and Michael Terns are also members of the University of Georgia Cancer Center.
The two essential components of human telomerase are telomerase RNA and telomerase reverse transcriptase. They are "recruited" to telomeres during what is called the "S phase" (for synthesis)
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University of Georgia