Telomeres & Gliomas: The Link
Telomeres: Finding The Right Balance
While it is true that longer telomeres increase the lifespan of cells, having longer telomeres may not necessarily be a good thing. The increased length of telomeres does increase the life of cells, but it may also cause cells to survive significantly longer than they were intended to. This increased longevity could lend to the formation of cancerous cells. In fact, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco have recently discovered a link between two gene variants of the TERT and TERC genes and the formation of gliomas. These genes are both components of telomerase, the enzyme that controls the addition of telomeric repetitions to the ends of chromosomes. Variations in the TERT and TERC genes that are associated with the increased size of the telomere have also been connected with the formation of gliomas, a very rare deadly form of brain cancer. Furthermore, this study showed that 51% of the population carries the gene variant for TERT and 72% of the population carries the gene variant for TERC that are associated with the formation of gliomas, both shockingly high numbers to say the least. Researchers have proposed an explanation as to why this high risk gene variant is found in such a high percentage of the population for such a rare cancer. Researchers state that, "...in these carriers, the overall cellular robustness afforded by longer telomeres trumps the increased risk of high-grade gliomas, which are invariably fatal but relatively rare." (Mayo Clinic News Network).
Telomeres in red capping the ends of chromosomes shown in purple.
Telomeres highlighted in yellow capping the end of chromosomes shown in purple.
The process of telomere shortening.
The Importance: Why Does It Matter?
The Impact: How Will This Change Medicine?
What Does This Mean for Nurses?
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