Telomeres: Aging and Cancer- Annotated Bibliography

“Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?” Genetic Science Learning Center.  University of Utah Health Sciences. Web.

Published by the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Utah, this article is primarily about the notion of telomeres, which are ultimately repeated sequences of DNA on the end of chromosomes. Telomeres exist to provide the chromosomes with protection, much like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces provide protection to the laces. Every time a cell undergoes division, telomeres get shorter. When a telomere gets too short, the cell can no longer divide, which results in cell death. Because of this, telomere shortening is associated with the process of aging, cancer, and death. This article essentially explains how telomere shortening is related to aging and cancer, and then proceeds to give scientific studies on how the length of one’s telomeres can affect one’s lifespan and susceptibility to illnesses like cancer.


Fernandez, Elizabeth. “Diet, Meditation, Exercise Can Improve Key Element of

Immune Cell Aging, UCSF Scientists Report.” Lifestyle Changes May Lengthen

Telomeres, a Measure of Cell Aging. University of California San Francisco,

  1. Web.

This article, published by scientists at University of California at San Francisco and supported by the National Institute of Health and National Cancer Institute, describes a small scientific study that reveals that changes in one’s lifestyle—such as a healthy diet, stress reduction, and frequent exercise—can lengthen one’s telomeres, a huge finding. Longer telomeres are associated with less diseases and a larger lifespan. The fact that one can alter his or her telomere length by some degree illustrates that one’s genetic material is not necessarily his or her fate. These scientists hope that their study inspires larger studies that encompass more people and more factors to confirm the finding that an increase in telomere length can indeed increase the human population’s lifespan—a concept that can be a breakthrough in the medical world.


“Scientists Begin to Unravel the Mysteries of Aging.” Today’s Science. Infobase

Learning, Mar. 1998. Web.

This article, published by Today’s Science, provides information on the job of the enzyme telomerase, which is a protein that counteracts the telomere shortening that occurs with every cell division by consistently adding more DNA sequences to the telomeres. This enzyme is only found in reproductive, fetal, and cancer cells, but not in somatic cells, which are also known as body cells. In body cells, the gene for this enzyme is completely turned off and nonfunctioning. Scientists are proposing that if they can find a way to turn on the gene in these somatic cells, perhaps these cells can divide indefinitely. This would ultimately postpone the process of aging for humans. Scientists are also looking at how telomerase can be utilized to rejuvenate cells that are deteriorating, as well as to improve cancer treatments.




Shay, Jerry, and Woodring E. Wright. “Roles of Telomeres and Telomerase in

Cancer.” Journal List. US National Library of Medicine, 2011. Web.


Published through Seminars Cancer Biology, this scientific article provides more detail on how cancer is related to the repeated DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes called telomeres. In cancer cells, telomerase activity is almost always present, allowing these cells to divide incessantly, and ultimately permitting the tumor to become larger and larger. These seemingly immortal cancer cells are the reason why scientists are looking into the enzyme, telomerase, for not only cancer diagnosis, but also for cancer treatment. Currently, it is widely accepted that the process of aging serves to prevent malignancies like cancer. With the complex knowledge of telomeres and telomerase, scientists today are attempting to unearth an effective way to both treat and possibly cure cancer, as well prolong aging—a challenging task.

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