Telomerase is an enzyme that actively participates in the lengthening of telomeres by partly recovering the DNA that is destroyed in each cell division.
Under normal conditions, telomerase ceases to be as effective at lengthening telomeres after several divisions, leading the cell to its natural apoptosis.
This enzyme becomes very important in diseases such as cancer, where its abnormal activity is an indication of the beginning of tumor process, as it is widely present in most cancer cells.
Consequently, studies of genetic therapy are being carried out to analyze the aftermaths of modifying the enzyme’s expression.
For the purpose of anticancer therapies, different ways to turn off telomerase activity are being tested in order to provoke apoptosis selectively in cancer cells and thus, destroy the tumor from within the cells.
In addition, telomerase is an enzyme involved in the development, not only of cancer, but also of other diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) or congenital dyskeratosis (CD), among others, in which short telomere length affects tissues and organs such as the liver or lung.
In order to treat these diseases, activating the presence of telomerase could suppose an improvement in the sick individual.
For example, a 2018 study showed that the telomerase gene could be reactivated by gene therapy in mice, but only for a few cell divisions, thereby engaging the molecule elongation of telomeres and reducing the risks, such as accelerated tumorigenesis, associated with its activation.
These could be the first steps of how to treat some diseases derived from telomere shortening, as well as to be able to apply antiaging therapies since telomerase is directly involved in the longevity of an individual. There is already some evidence of the benefits that some antia-ging therapies in this area may have. For example, a study in mice aged with a deficiency in telomerase showed that tissue degeneration was reversed by reactivating the activity of the enzyme.
In conclusion, the gene therapy used to regulate telomeres and telomerase is beginning to show some positive results. This could have a promising future when it comes to treating certain diseases as well designing new anti-aging treatments.