Inflammation, Aging and Cancer All Linked to One Gene

Guest_Jim_* - June 1, 2012 04:59AM in Science & Technology

A future with a failing body is not something anyone looks forward to, so researchers are looking for ways to control the process. We already have medications and treatments so senior citizens can stay active with each passing year, but researchers are still working towards a way to stop or completely reverse the aging process itself.

Studies have discovered that as people age, the telomeres at the ends of their chromosomes fall off. Preventing this from happening inhibits aging, but can also cause cancer, which is an unchecked and uncontrolled mutation of normal cells. Researchers have known that inflammation is also connected to aging and cancer, but did not know how these three, seemingly unconnected, things were intertwined. Those at NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine have discovered that the link is through the AUF1 gene.

This gene controls inflammation by turning off that natural response before septic shock can occur. What the researchers discovered is that AUF1 also triggers the activation of telomerase, an enzyme that repairs telomeres, or kills cells by not activating, to repair the telomeres. This one gene regulates inflammation, can prevent accelerated aging, and prevent cancer by not activating telomerase. The researchers' next step is to examine the human population to see if mutations of the AUF1 gene are linked to different diseases.