How 'Junk DNA' Sequence Plays a Role in Ageing and Cancer

·2 min read

The human body is no less than a complex machine. It is made up of some trillions of living cells. It is a known fact that the body ages as the cells age. The ageing of the cells happens when they stop replicating and dividing. Even though this has been known for a long that it is the genes that influence the ageing of the cells but how exactly that happens remains a mystery. A recent study led by a team of researchers at Washington State University concluded that a DNA region known as VNTR2-1 seems to be a factor that impacts the telomerase gene.

The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mentions that it is the telomerase gene that has the tendency to prevent ageing in certain types of cells. The research was carried out by a team headed by Jiyue Zhu, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. In the study, it has been mentioned that the telomerase gene controls the activity of the telomerase enzyme, which directly impacts the production of telomeres. When it comes to cancer cells, the telomerase gene makes sure that the telomeres are reset to the same length when the DNA is copied. This is how the cancer cells begin to multiply and end up forming tumours.

Substantiating the points made in the study, Jiyue asserted that approximately 50 per cent of the genome is made of repetitive DNA that does not code for the protein in the cell. This DNA sequence is considered as the ‘junk DNA’ or dark matter in the genome. The dark matter of the genome is difficult to study and so this research stresses those units that actually function and enhance the activity of the telomerase gene. This finding is based on a series of experiments that found that deleting the DNA sequence from cancer cells in a human cell line caused telomeres to shorten

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