Research identifies potential role of ‘junk DNA’ sequence in aging, cancer

The human body is essentially made up of trillions of living cells. It ages as its cells age, which happens when those cells eventually stop replicating and dividing. Scientists have long known that genes influence how cells age and how long humans live, but how that works exactly remains unclear. Findings from a new study led by researchers at Washington State University have solved a small piece of that puzzle, bringing scientists one step closer to solving the mystery of aging.

Zhu said that his team’s latest finding that VNTR2-1 helps to drive the activity of the telomerase gene is especially notable because of the type of DNA sequence it represents.

A research team headed by Jiyue Zhu, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, recently identified a DNA region known as VNTR2-1 that appears to drive the activity of the telomerase gene, which has been shown to prevent aging in certain types of cells, including reproductive cells and cancer cells. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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