Telomeres may turn off nearby genes, affect aging

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have shown that genes near human telomeres can be silenced, or turned off. This discovery may help explain how and why humans age. Telomeres are repeating sequences of DNA located at the end of each chromosome and are believed to function as a counting mechanism for cellular aging. The cell biology researchers report in the 15 June 2001 issue of Science that human cells can exhibit telomere position effect (TPE), in which genes near telomeres can be turned off, and that the strength of gene silencing is proportional to the length of nearby telomeres.

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