Telomerase repairs telomeres and prevents senescence, but is hijacked by 80 to 90% of cancers
Telomerase, an enzyme that extends the length of telomeres, is critical to healthy cellular aging due to its capacity to lengthen telomeres. But telomerase also prevents cells from becoming senescent, a state that can occur when a cell is damaged, in which it no longer replicates (divides) and is not metabolically active. Having too much telomerase – as in the case of cancer cells – can be a bad thing, however. Cancer cells exploit the regenerative capacity of telomerase to perpetually divide, essentially becoming immortal. In fact, telomerase levels in cancer cells are often as much as 10-fold higher than in normal, healthy replicating cells. In this clip, Dr. Elissa Epel discusses how having an optimal ratio of telomerase – high enough to reduce the risk of chronic disease, but low enough to reduce the risk of cancer – is key.
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