Addition of Telomerase to Somatic Cells

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Telomerase is an enzyme that is able to regenerate telomeres. In humans, it is found in some tissues, such as male germ cells, activated lymphocytes, and certain types of stem cell populations. If present in somatic cells, it can turn them cancerous following mutation. Telomere shortening is one of the factors which contribute to aging so it is worthwhile to look into such an addition to develop anti-aging treatments.

Telomerase is a reverse transcriptase enzyme with its own RNA template. This makes it very similar to retroviruses with the notable exception of capsids. Such similarities could be used to establish the idea that viruses may have fused with the cells of other organisms to give rise to telomerase in the course of evolution from the RNA world.

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Edited by Nafeez Ishmam Ahmed, student of Joan Slonczewski for BIOL 116 Information in Living Systems, 2019, Kenyon College.