So what is telomerase? And why is this important?
Telomeres are junk attached to the end of chromosomes. Each time a cell replicates, its chromosomes replicate as well. Because the process isn’t perfect, the end of the chromosome gets cleaved off – the telomere. Eventually the telomere runs out, and the cell enters a state of senescence (”old age”) or dies.
Telomeres are like a health bar for our cells and all cells undergo this process – including the ones in our skin.
Telomerase can extend telomeres by adding back junk to the end of the chromosome. This allows the cell to replicate longer than it normally would have without errors.
Great right? Unfortunately, cancer cells also benefit from telomerases, which is a big problem.
By understanding the structure of telomerases, scientists can begin to research how it functions. This could eventually lead to understanding how to control its function and use it (or develop similar structures) as a treatment.
As one of the researchers, Juli Feigon, put it:
“If telomerase were a cat, before we could see its general outline and the location of the limbs, but now we can see the eyes, the whiskers, the tail and the toes.“
One day we may never have to worry about skin ageing again.
As Lisle Von Rhuman says in Death Becomes Her:
“This is life’s ultimate cruelty. It offers us a taste of youth and vitality, and then it makes us witness our own decay.”
If you haven’t seen it and you love camp, Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willi–I think I’ve said enough, just go watch it!
P.S. If you see a skin care product or a beauty supplement claiming it can lengthen telomeres…RUN. Run far, far away – while giving it a dirty eye.
Read the discussion on /r/Science