Spanish study unlocks one half of possible Fountain of Youth

Spanish study unlocks one half of possible Fountain of Youth

It’s not often that researchers are thankful for the opportunity to study cancer cells, but the odd fact is that one of the deadliest aspects of the disease is almost its most promising. And while cancer is probably known best for its terrifying ability to affect the human body, recent research might’ve unlocked a new and beneficial side of cancer cells.

According to a study conducted by researchers from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre and published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, the same genetic mechanism that allows cancer cells to grow without end has been discovered. If you’ve read anything about how telomeres have more to do with your cell health than anything else you could possibly do, you know why this could be a big deal for your overall well-being.

DNA isn’t the only molecule you should be worried about.Figuring out telomeres
Thought to be at the center of everything from wrinkles on your face to the long-term effects of aging, telomeres are responsible for transferring genetic instructions every time your cells divide. However, telomeres, the microscopic tugboats that make sure your DNA makes it where it’s supposed to be, wear down over time and can’t do their job as effectively. This leads to cells with imperfections that build up as you age.

However, as the authors of the SNCRC study explained, a mechanism in cancer cells reverses this process by stimulating the constant release of telomerase, a special chemical that induces telomere activity. Previous studies have tried to inhibit the flow of telomerase, but the SNCRC researchers instead disrupted a protective sheet sheathe around telomeres known as “shelterin,” or TRF1 more specifically. When the cancerous cells stopped propagating, they knew they had achieved something significant.

“Nobody had explored the idea of using one of the shelterins as an anti-cancer target,” Maria Garcia-Beccaria, Ph.D., researcher at the SNCRC and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “We have seen that this strategy kills cancer cells efficiently, stops tumor growth and has bearable toxic effects.”

“When the cancerous cells stopped propagating, they knew they’ achieved something.”

The benefit to cell health
Obviously, the study’s findings hold immediate potential for cancer research. However, if you just want to maintain your current level of cell health, there’s reason to be excited, too.

By investigating how telomere activity can be turned off permanently, researchers get that much closer to finding the “on” switch as well. And if your cells have an endless supply of telomeres that make fewer errors during the replication process, you might not just be healthier – you might live longer, too.