Telomerase Do We Want To Live Forever

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Telomerase: Do We Want To Live Forever Essay, Research Paper Telomerase: Do we want to live forever I. Introduction There have been countless technological breakthroughs in this century. Some have made life in the entire world a better place, while some have surely proved to be devastating. Could someone a hundred years ago have imagined how a contraption like the telephone could change the course of history; that a person could be on one side of the world and in another seven hours later; the idea that a man could walk on the moon would have cost us our heads in other times. As we come forward in our science fiction technological advances, the human race is presented with the prospect of immortality. Finally some light has been shed on dying and the factors that contribute

to it. By understanding some basic concepts, we can begin to understand that there are ways we can avoid an early death. Plenty of research has been conducted on the subject, but until recently, new breakthroughs have shown us some concrete evidence. An enzyme exists in our body that has the potential for extending our individual life expectancies. The name of this enzyme is telomerase. Before understanding how this enzyme can help us postpone death, we have to first examine the reason that normal body cells die. II. Why cells die There are two kinds of cells in humans. These are somatic cells and gametes. Most of our somatic cells undergo a process called mitosis. In which it is believed that one cell divides into two identical daughter cells. It is also a well known fact that

the resulting daughter cells have the same number and kind of chromosomes as the original parent nucleus. This is not entirely true. Every time one divides, it sheds tiny snippets of RNA known as telomeres, which are a part of the DNA sequence. Telomeres serve as protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. After perhaps fifty divisions, a cell’s telomeres become so truncated that its chromosomes begin to fray. This only occurs in somatic cells that reproduce and not in other cells like nerve cells that do not normally reproduce. A popular analogy states that these telomeres are like shoelaces that have lost their plastic coverings at the ends. Our cells can detect when a telomere is too short, and eventually stops dividing and dies off. It is not yet known how cells sense their

shortened telomeres. The number of divisions varies between 40 and 90, depending on cell type, and is known as the Hayflick number, after Leonard Hayflick, who discovered this phenomenon in 1965. Another factor that contributes to the death of cells is the over-stimulation of cell divisions. A restrictive diet has proven to elongate the life of cells also. Since eating less food provides less materials for cell reproduction, we can delay cell divisions. Eating too little may result in the opposite as the stresses of malnutrition on the body could kill off healthy cells. Helping the cells in our body divide at a slower pace makes sense, since less telomeric material will be lost. But balancing a restrictive diet that won’t have unhealthy results could prove a challenge. III.

Telomeres and Telomerase Telomeres are highly conserved sequences of RNA that are present at the ends of chromosomes and consist of repeats of the nucleotide sequence TTAGGG. These nucleotide sequences shorten every time a cell divides. At birth, telomeres consist of about 15,000 base pairs of repeated TTAGGG DNA sequences. Every time a cell divides it loses 25-200 DNA base pairs off the telomere ends. Once this pruning has occurred about 100 times a cell senesces (or ages) and does not continue dividing. Cellular senescence is the limited capacity of cells to divide beyond a finite number of population doublings (finite growth potential). Germ cells like ova and sperm cells maintain there telomere length at a maximum length because they have an active enzyme called telomerase in