Reactivating the enzyme telomerase induces quiescent cells to start dividing and reverses tissue degeneration, according to mouse studies led by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston (Jaskelioff M et al. Nature. 2011;469:102-106).
As cells age, chromosomes gradually lose their protective tips, or telomeres, and mice lacking the telomere-rebuilding enzyme telomerase experience progressive tissue atrophy, stem cell loss, organ failure, and impaired healing. When scientists reactivated the enzyme, telomeres were restored and degeneration was eliminated in multiple organs, including testes, spleens, and intestines. Reactivation of telomerase also reversed neurodegeneration, prompted the generation of new neurons, and improved the poor sense of smell that accompanies aging in rodents and is caused by diminished olfactory neurogenesis.