Current Research into Telomeres

Excelife excelife at
Mon Aug 31 05:33:25 EST 1998



Geron Corp., who's research efforts are headed by Dr. Calvin Harley  is the 
leading commercial research company investigating telomeres.  They have 
formed collaborations with some of the best researchers and laboratories 
involved in this research.

A description of these collaborations gives a good idea of where the research 
into telomeres is headed.  The following is just a brief overview.  A much 
more thorough description is given on Gerons web pages at

1) Telomere Biology

Their most publicized collaboration is with Dr J. Shay and Dr. W. Wright at 
Texas Southwest Medical Center.  Their ground breaking research, (Science 
1998 Jan 16;279(5349):349-352), showed that the maintenance of telomeric 
length in cells would extend the cells replicative capacity beyond the 
expected Hayflick limit in "a phenotypically youthful state".

Continued research into the effects of the enzyme telomerase with its ability 
to maintain telomeric length is likely to lead to a greater understanding of 
how we can develop a means of intervening in the aging process of replicating 

2) Telomerase Inhibition

Much of Gerons research effort is directed toward finding methods to inhibit 
the expression of telomerase in cancerous tissue.  Since the enzyme 
telomerase has been found to be activated in most cancers it is possible that 
the tumors could be stopped from growing if the telomerase could be inhibited 
from maintaining the telomeres.  Geron is collaborating with both the 
National Cancer Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer 
Research, in their search for a means to inhibit telomerase.

3) Telomerase Detection

Geron has developed a "proprietary screening technology" to help identify 
molecules that may inhibit telomerase and is collaborating with several 
medical institutes and Universities to refine this technology.  This same 
technology will be important for determining telomerase-telomere interactions 
on a molecular basis and perhaps give us a better idea of the kinds of 
interventions that are possible.

4) Genomics of Aging

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. 

5) Primordial Stem Cells

This research, being conducted in association with Johns Hopkins University 
School of Medicine, The University of Wisconsin at Madison, and The 
University of California, San Francisco, is potentially as important as the 
research into telomeres themselves.  These stem cells are immortalized by the 
enzyme telomerase and are completely undifferentiated.  They hold out the 
possibility that the non-replicating cells like nerves and most muscle cells 
can be replaced much as telomeric lengthening allows replicating cells to 
continue mitotic reproduction.  If these primordial stem cells can be 
utilized to maintain the non-replicating cellular systems then every major 
hurdle to longevity can be overcome!

Thomas Mahoney, Pres.
Lifeline Laboratories, Inc. 

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