Scientists Find New Lease of Life
Scientists in the United States say they have been able to make human cells live longer by altering their genetic material. The research may offer renewed hope for age-related illnesses and the fight against cancer.
When chromosomes divide they go through a process called DNA replication. The double helix separates and unwinds. When the double helix has completely separated new nucleotides complete the base pairings. Then the new phosphate backbones are made. In the end the two double helixes are identical to the original. This happens everytime that a cell divides.
Most cells in the body grow and divide to form organs and tissues but cells can divide only a limited number of times before they stop. Now scientists have found out why. It is to do with their chromosomes, the long threads of DNA at the center of each cell. The ends of each chromosomes are capped to protect them by structures called telomeres. Each time the cell divides the telomeres gets shorter until the cell can divide no more. Scientists at the University of Texas have discovered that making the telomeres bigger again encourages cells to divide and grow once more.
No Magic Elixir
The American team stresses that it has not discovered the key to everlasting life but says the discovery may help in combating certain diseases such as cancer where cells divide uncontrollably. British experts said the discovery is important but add a note of caution.