JOURNAL QUESTIONS FOR HUMAN GENETICS ARTICLES
TELOMERES & AGING
1.What are telomeres and how are they involved in aging? 2.What is telomerase? How does it work? What evidence is there that the addition of active telomerase genes increase life span? 3.Has the life span of whole animals been increased by genetic engineering with telomerase? 4.Perhaps scientists could add longevity to dividing cells (skin, bone marrow, intestinal lining, liver).Some tissue, however, appears to be done dividing early in an organisms development (e.g. neurons, muscle, pancrease, kidney etc.). Would added telomerase affect these cells also? If not, would these tissues be the limiting factor in ability to immortalize an organism? If so are there undesireable consequences of leaving such tissue mitotically active? 5.All cancer cells show active telomerase activity, which gives such cellsimmortal ability. Would adding active telomerase to organisms increase the risk of cancer? Robert Weinberg of MIT’s Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research says “telomerase could breathe new life into premalignant cells that would otherwise be too old to cause trouble”. 6.If not increase organism longevity, could we manipulate individual tissues; Might it be possible to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplants by adding longevity through telomerase engineering? Might we improve cloning effectiveness by telomerase reseting of the donor cell division potentials? 7.Might we be able to regrow a person’s own liver or pancrease tissue by introducing telomerase or produce cloned organs to transplant? 8.Could we stimulate regeneration of severed nerves or muscles with telomerase? 9.If we could increase human life span, what benefits might it bring? What potential risks or problems might it bring? 10.Is this playing God in any way that violates Biblical mandates? 1.What is the Hayflick Limit? Is it the same for all cell types or species? 2.What sequence of nucleotides is repeated millions of times in telomeres? 3.What aging diseases might be reversed by telomerase therapy or gene engineering? 4.What other hormones, or chemical treatments have been used to forestall aging? 5.Is cell aging (replicative senescence) the only or primary cause of whole organism aging? What other factors appear to contribute to aging? 6.What cascade of aging signs occur after an accumulation of senescent cells in skin? What cells begin the aging process in arteriosclerosis (heart disease)? What cascade of aging results occur and how might such tissues (heart vessels, and skin) be treated with telomerase? 7.What is a telomerase knockout mouse, and do they live shorter, longer or normal lifespans?
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