New Study Reveals Yet Another Surprising Function of Telomeres

Even though telomeres have been studied for more than 80 years, they continue to hold a wealth of information for us, including the potential for unexpected roles.

Despite their simplicity, these vital cellular components can create proteins, which was previously believed to be impossible.

Although it is not yet known what these proteins may do, the mere fact that they exist is important.

Telomeres serve a significant part in our bodies and store our genetic information. Telomeres lose their protective properties as we get older, which causes cell mortality and harm. There are numerous possible outcomes due to the fact that structures that are so important are working in a manner that we were previously unaware of.

The finding resulted from the detection of an RNA component connected to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The proteins that power bodily processes are created in part by RNA, and in this case, researchers found that an RNA molecule associated with ALS was strikingly similar to an RNA molecule produced by telomeres.

That led researchers to consider a novel hypothesis: Could the RNA molecules associated with telomeres and ALS share the same protein-producing mechanism?

They carried out more research and came to the opinion, "Certainly."

According to molecular biologist Jack Griffith of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "scientists have occasionally failed to combine data from two very remote areas," which is what we did.

Our knowledge of cancer, aging, and how cells interact with one another will alter as a result of the discovery that telomeres contain two new signaling proteins.

The team demonstrated through an experimental setting that telomere DNA could direct cells to make the signaling proteins VR and GL (glycine-leucine). These proteins could then transmit instructions for cellular processes that affect the health of the organism.

Further investigation showed that VR is present in greater concentrations in some human cancer cells as well as in the cells of individuals suffering from telomere-related diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

It suggests potential impacts of these proteins, and specialists might employ them to judge the state of cells.

According to molecular scientist and study author Taghreed Al-Turki of UNC at Chapel Hill, "We believe it's conceivable that as we mature, the quantity of VR and GL in our blood will gradually increase, possibly giving a novel indicator for biological age as opposed to chronological age."

"We believe that inflammation may also be a factor in these proteins' synthesis."

To fully comprehend how these proteins might affect cell metabolism and potential inflammatory reactions, more research is necessary. Nevertheless, it's an exciting new area of study to investigate.

Although there are still many unanswered issues, Griffith states that creating an easy blood test for these proteins is currently the top goal. This could reveal our biological age and serve as a warning sign for problems like cancer or inflammation.

The research has been published in PNAS.