Study of telomeres – the chromosome tips – provides insight into the balance between health and cancer
Celebrated by an exhibition at its new building in White City, London in January, the MRC LMS launched a book and website with over 100 interpretations of the phrase ‘A Picture of Health’ gathered from a broad cross-section of society.
As his Picture of Health, Dr Jean-Baptiste Vannier, head of the Telomere Replication and Stability group at the MRC LMS, chose an image highlighting the tips of chromosomes called telomeres. Read why:“In each of our cells our unique genetic code exists as lengths of DNA sequence assembled as discrete structures called chromosomes. Chromosomes (here stained blue) end in DNA/protein structures called telomeres (red), repetitive sequences that protect genes along the chromosome from degradation. Telomeres can become shorter with ageing, damage through stress and in disease, but they are also restorable. The enzyme telomerase replenishes shortened telomeres by adding DNA sequence. Telomerase is not active in most of our body’s cells, but cancer cells have developed mechanisms by which telomeres are constantly elongated, which is a key process in helping cancer cells to continue growing. Keeping telomeres at their best is a critical feature of healthy ageing. Maintaining the balance between senescence/cell death and tumour formation is bound up with the mechanisms that control telomere shortening and lengthening. Hence, targeting telomere maintenance pathways in cancer is a long-term goal in my field, as we strive to keep humans healthier longer.”
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.