Telomeres and Telomerase in Aging, Longevity, and Health
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Drs. J. Watson and A. M. Olovnikov described the natural phenomenon of an “end replication problem” in the 1970s. The problem arises from the inability of a polymerase enzyme to fully replicate a linearized chromosome, resulting in a cumulative erosion of the ends of chromosomes during each cell division. The shortening of telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, due to the end replication problem and exonuclease activity has been hypothesized to play a role in the aging process, as a 'senescence' setpoint is progressively impinged upon. This thesis will review the role of the telomeres and telomerase, an enzyme which acts to elongate the telomeres, in cancer biology and in aging. Looked at through examples both in nature and in the laboratory, the role of the telomeres will be described and their possible roles in aging will be discerned.