The Telomeres and Telomerase Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), in collaboration with the Centre’s Transgenic Mice Core Unit, has succeeded in creating mice in the laboratory with hyper-long telomeres and with reduced molecular ageing, avoiding the use of what to date has been the standard method: genetic manipulation.
A gene that plays a role in protecting telomeres might also be linked with obesity. Researchers have found that mice lacking this gene, RAP1, gain more weight, even if they do not eat more than their control counterparts.
Conducted by Brian Duggan via email in August 2011
Brian Duggan: Can you please share with our readers a little of your background, and how you personally got interested in Telomere Science and its relationship with healthy aging?
Maria Blasco: After I did my PhD in Madrid, I was working at one of the leading Molecular Biology Institutes in Madrid, founded by Nobel Prize Lauretate Severo Ochoa. My supervisor, Dr. Margarita Salas, had the highest opinion of research performed at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York where she knew its Director, Bruce Stillman. Therefore, in the early nineties, when I saw that there was a new Junior Group, headed by Carol W. Greider, working with the enzyme telomerase, it was clear to me that I had to work in that Group.
Telomere shortening is a marker for cellular aging and is linked to our susceptibility to chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Historically there have been two defining questions in telomeres studies: is there a connection between telomere lengths and our vulnerability to health risks associated with the aging process? Also, can people revise their lifestyles to lengthen their telomeres, and therefore increase their chances of staying healthy?