Greater success in bone marrow transplants
Monday, October 18, 2004
Research that aims at understanding and manipulating the way cells grow and age may soon help bone marrow transplants as well as chemotherapy patients to better deal with their treatments and prevent the creation of new cancer tumors.
The research spearheaded by Prof. Arnon Nagler, Director of the Institute of Hematology at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel-Aviv and Dr. Meir Lahav, Director of the Medicine A Department at the Beilinson Medical Center concentrated on Telomeres. Telomeres are sequences of amino acids found at the ends of chromosomes. Although they are written in the 'alphabet' of the genes, Telomeres do not contain the codes for proteins. Therefore, Telomeres are not themselves genes, but neither are they meaningless junk. Instead these repetitive sequences protect the ends of the chromosome from damage. Telomeres are a kind of timekeeper of the cell, whenever the cell divides the Telomere gets a little bit shorter. When the Telomere can no longer get any shorter the cell dies. Interestingly enough, if you divide the length of an average Telomere by its yearly shortening you get approximately 120 years which has long been considered to be the maximum natural living age of human beings.
From earlier research it is known that besides regular cell division there are specific processes that accelerate the shortening of the Telomere. Among these are bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy. This is due to the fact that the Telomere mechanism controls the division of healthy cells and whenever this mechanism is disturbed, either by replacing the cells with new ones (as what happens in transplants) or by chemically manipulating them (chemotherapy), we expose the tissue to accelerated cell division and eventually even to the creation of new tumors.
The research done by Prof. Nagler and Dr. Lahav has shown that by injecting natural growth factors it is possible to increase the length of the Telomeres sevenfold and thus preventing premature cellular death and creation of new cancerous tumors.
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