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Aging Discovery: Scientists Found Master Regulator Of Cellular Aging

Update Date: Jan 14, 2017 09:30 AM EST
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A team of scientists has discovered a protein, dubbed as TZAP, the master regulator of cellular aging. This protein is responsible in fine-tuning the cellular clock linked to aging.

In the study published in the journal Science, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) found TZAP that binds the ends of chromosomes. It also helps determine how long telomeres, the part of the DNA that protects the ends of the chromosomes, can be.

Importance Of Telomeres

Telomeres are found at the end of chromosomes and they play an important role in chromosome stability. These are commonly compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces because they keep the ends of chromosomes from fraying or sticking to each other, which may destroy one's genetic information.

However, when a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. During the time that they get too short, the cell can no longer divide and it ends up dying. The shortening of telomeres is associated with cancer, higher risk of death and aging.

"Telomeres represent the clock of a cell," Eros Lazzerini Denchi, co-author of the new study, said as reported by Science Daily.

"You are born with telomeres of a certain length, and every time a cell divides, it loses a little bit of the telomere. Once the telomere is too short, the cell cannot divide anymore," he added.

Cellular Clock

Many researchers wanted to know whether lengthening telomeres could slow aging. Through the years, many scientists have looked into using telomerase to fine-tune the biological clock. However, they also found that long telomeres are a risk factor in developing cancer.

In the new study, the researchers found that the protein TZAP controls a process called telomere trimming, making sure that telomeres do not become too long, to cause cancer.

"This protein sets the upper limit of telomere length. This allows cells to proliferate -- but not too much," Denchi added.

The study could pave way for the development of a means to slow aging. In fact, the discovery of this protein came as a surprise since many scientists believed there were no additional proteins binding to telomeres.

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