A connection between stem cell function and a molecule well known for enabling cells to multiply indefinitely could suggest new ways of treating disorders associated with tissue injury, ageing and cancer. In the August 18, 2005 issue of Nature (Vol. 436, No. 7053, pp. 1048-1052), Steven Artandi and colleagues describe how activating the protein in skin cells results in rapid hair growth.
Regenerating tissues such as skin and blood requires high rates of cell turnover, which occurs through the tightly regulated division of tissue stem cells. The genes and proteins that control stem-cell behaviour remain largely unknown. Here the authors engineered a transgenic system for conditionally activating the protein, a component of telomerase called TERT, in adult tissues. The protein is activated in 90% of human cancers, and remarkably, its induction in skin activates resting hair follicle stem cells to initiate the active phase of the hair follicle cycle. This paper identifies the first activity for TERT that is distinct from its previously described role of adding caps to the ends of our chromosomes, and suggests new strategies for manipulating TERT for therapeutic purposes.
Steven Artandi (Stanford University, CA, USA)
Elizabeth H. Blackburn (University of California at San Francisco, CA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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