The scientists at Arizona State University have found a rare atomic level change at the enzyme telomerase that holds secrets as to how we grow old.
The telomerase is a naturally occurring enzyme that maintains telomeres and prevents them from shortening during cell division. Telomeres are found at the ends of human chromosomes and are stretches of DNA which protect the genetic data.
“Telomerase is crucial for telomere maintenance and genome integrity. Mutations that disrupt telomerase function have been linked to numerous human diseases that arise from telomere shortening and genome instability,” explained Julian Chen, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State.
The telomeres keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, which would destroy or scramble our genetic information.
“This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death,” scientists noted.
“We are particularly excited about this research because it provides, for the first time, an atomic level description of the protein-RNA interaction in the vertebrate telomerase complex,” Chen added.
The scientists in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai had conducted the crucial research, which will be published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.