Current Research into Telomeres

Excelife excelife at
Mon Aug 31 18:24:09 EST 1998

In article <35eb0db2.261395072 at>, ufotruth at 
>Thomas Mahoney, 
>How are you doing? I am doing ok but have been pretty busy. My new job
>takes a lot of my time and energy.
>Thanks for posting this informative post. It is very informative and
>interesting. I have a couple of questions and comments I would like to
>(I will try to keep my questions and comments short and simple so I
>will not appear to be rambling or offend anyone.)
>1) In your post it was stated:
> "Age related genetic expression, especially in senescent cells, is
>one of the keys to developing methods to intervene in the aging
>process. Geron is collaborating with the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory,
>Stanford University, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer
>Research, to identify those genes that may be involved in age-related
>diseases.  Their "Enhanced Differential Display" and "Subtractive
>Differential Display" technologies allows the researchers to identify
>particular genes and their products and may allow for the development
>of methods to intervene in these processes.  Their current efforts are
>directed toward skin aging, atherosclerosis and macular degeneration."
>My question is: Why is it so important to isolate every single gene in
>senecent cells when just immortalizing every cell in the human body
>would prevent any cells from becoming senecent, at least not from
>telomere shortening, which would mean none of these genes would be

There's a twofold answer to this question.  First we are, unfortunately, a 
long way from being able to effectively immortalize even one cellular system 
let alone every cell.  It's the old saying "you have to crawl before you can 
walk". Any interim advances we can take to help mitigate the damage caused by 
the genetic products of senescent cells will be a step in the right 
direction.  Intervention in age related diseases like heart disease and 
immunological failures can help many of us survive to the point that "aging" 
itself is the primary cause of death.

Secondly, it is not at all clear that just maintaining telomeric length will 
have the desired effect on age related genetic expression. Many other 
processes are likely involved in determining which genes will be expressed at 
any given time. The technologies developed by Geron will help us address some 
of these issues.

>2) In your post it was stated that GERON was working on creating
>immortal stem cells to create non dividing cells. Like, for example,
>if someone's neurons were dying these stem cells could go in, divide,
>and make some new ones.
>But I have a question. If STEM cells started dividing and replacing
>injured or dead neurons would memories disapear? Or would the new ones
>take the place of the old ones in a way that the memories would be

The most recent research indicates that memories are stored as synaptic 
connections between neurons.  If the cells maintaining these connections are 
lost so are the memories associated with them.  But the brain is a robust 
organ and contains numerous back up systems and most of your important 
memories are stored in numerous locations.

Gradual replacement of cells would have no more impact on your memory than 
aging itself does, ie; you tend to forget memories from long ago while your 
most recent experiences are crystal clear.  I don't have the time nor the 
expertise to go into state dependent learning and the effects of memory 
stimulation and rote memorization but I don't believe neuron replacement 
therapies will cause any great problems.

>3) When is someone going to actually try an experiment to rejuvinate
>an actual organism, or just one type of organ, in an organism? It
>seems like a company like GERON could easily take an old mouse,
>hamster, or creature with old skin, for example, insert the telomerase
>gene, and just see what occurs.

A medline search will show you that much foundational research into this area 
is already completed.  I would expect to be seeing results similar to those 
you describe in the very near future.

The research into growth factors may give us our first inkling of what to 
expect.  Growth factors can initiate cellular reproduction on a large scale 
and can produce skin cells and new veins.  However, this rapid prolification 
of cells has the unintended drawback of shortening the telomeres.  It is 
likely that the cells produced utilizing growth factors will enter senescence 
much sooner than the other cells in the body and therapies based on this 
technology, absent telomeric lengthening, may prove to be only a short term 

Similarly, the lengthening of the telomeres, while increasing the cellular 
reproductive capacity, may not produce the cellular prolification required to 
restore the functioning, of some of the systems, desired.


>Or is it that this is already taking place but everyone is very quite
>about it.....

I hope not!

>If something like that did occur I am sure the stinking feds would
>stick their fat noses into it and site "national security" or some
>other nonsence.

Our Gov't. is not "evil" but they are bureaucratic and subject to political 
pressure from constituents and lobbyists.  Even with fast tract approval at 
the FDA, any procedures developed will have to undergo years of testing 
before they will be made available to the general public.

If the procedures developed are limited by supply or the availability of 
medical technology then they may get involved in the distribution.  Probably 
in the same way they regulate organ transplants.  The laws and the 
administrators will have our best interest in mind but just as in the 
transplant system, some people will die while waiting their turn!

Thomas Mahoney, Pres.
Lifeline Laboratories, Inc.

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