A new system that helps cells stave off the ravages of time has been discovered by scientists. The find may help explain how some cancer cells live forever – and provide a new route of attack for up to one in 10 tumours, they say.
The system keeps cells youthful by adding thimble-like caps to the ends of chromosomes to protect them from damage and ageing, says the international team led by scientists at Cancer Research UK.
They estimate that up to 10 per cent of cancer cells may rely on this capping system to grow and divide well past their natural life expectancy.
The system is based on a molecule called RAD51D, which the team show protects DNA from damage. But the molecule also stops the protective ends of chromosomes from wearing away naturally, the process that normally allows a cell to grow old and die gracefully.