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Telomerase Expression Linked To Body Mass

Telomerase is an enzyme that is known to have healing properties. It was earlier considered that the lifespan of an organism and the amount of telomerase expressed were// related but it is now been linked to body mass. Telomerase is also known to increase the rate of cancer.

Vera Gorbunova, assistant professor of biology at the University of Rochester, conducted a first-of-its-kind study to discover why some animals express telomerase while others, like humans, don't. The findings are reported in today's issue of Aging Cell.

"Mice express telomerase in all their cells, which helps them heal dramatically fast," says Gorbunova. "Skin lesions heal much faster in mice, and after surgery a mouse's recovery time is far shorter than a human's. It would be nice to have that healing power, but the flip side of it is runaway cell reproduction-cancer."

Up until now, scientists assumed that mice could afford to express telomerase, and thereby benefit from its curative powers, because their natural risk of developing cancer is low-they simply die before there's much likelihood of one of their cells becoming cancerous.

"Most people don't know that if you put mice in a cage so the cat can't eat them, 90 percent of them will die of cancer," says Gorbunova.

Evolution, it seems, has determined which species are allowed to express telomerase in their somatic cells in order to maintain a delicate balance between cells that live long, and cells that become cancerous. But while most scientists believed an organism's lifespan determined whether it was at a higher risk of cancer, Gorbunova has revealed evidence that it is not our long lifespan that puts us at risk, but our much-heavier-than-a-mouse body mass.

The tips of chromosomes, called telomeres, shorten every time a cell divides. After about 60 divisions, the telomeres are eroded away to the point that the cell stops dividing. Telomerase rebuilds those tips, so an
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