Mapping the fountain of youth

University of Copenhagen researchers and an international team have for the first time mapped telomerase, an enzyme with a rejuvenating effect on cell aging.
This is one of the results of a major research project involving more than 1,000 researchers worldwide, four years of hard work, DKK 55 million from the EU, and blood samples from more than 200,000 people.
It is the largest collaboration project ever to be conducted within cancer genetics, the researchers say.
Stig E. Bojesen, a researcher at the Faculty of Health and Medicial Sciences, University of Copenhagen, and staff specialist at the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Copenhagen University Hospital, Herlev, has headed the efforts to map telomerase — an enzyme capable of creating telomeres (new ends on cellular chromosomes).
“We have discovered that differences in the telomeric gene are associated both with the risk of various cancers and with the length of the telomeres. The surprising finding was that the variants that caused the diseases were not the same as the ones which changed the length of the telomeres. This suggests that telomerase plays a far more complex role than previously assumed,” says Bojesen.
The mapping of telomerase is an important discovery because telomerase is one of the very basic enzymes in cell biology. It re-lengthens the telomeres so that they get the same length before embarking on cell division.