Telomerase is a naturally occurring enzyme that maintains telomeres and prevents them from shortening during cell division in cells. (Agencies)
Telomeres are found at the ends of our chromosomes and are stretches of DNA which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide.
Telomeres and the enzyme telomerase have been in the medical news a lot recently due to their connection with aging and cancer.
"Telomerase is crucial for telomere maintenance and genome integrity. Mutations that disrupt telomerase function have been linked to numerous human diseases that arise from telomere shortening and genome instability," explained Julian Chen, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State.
The telomeres keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, which would destroy or scramble our genetic information.
Each time one of our cells divides its telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide and it becomes inactive or dies.
"This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death," scientists noted.
"We are particularly excited about this research because it provides, for the first time, an atomic level description of the protein-RNA interaction in the vertebrate telomerase complex," Chen added.
The scientists teamed up with collaborators from Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai to perform this crucial research, published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.
Telomerase is a naturally occurring enzyme that maintains telomeres and prevents them from shortening during cell division in cells.