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Telomeres and telomerase in cancer

Christopher M. Counter
From: Science & Medicine: Volume 6 Number 5: Page 8 (October 1999)

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Abstract: Telomeres are complexes of DNA and protein that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes. Telomerase is an RNA-protein enzyme that elongates telomeres after each cell division. In the human, embryonic cells have been found to express telomerase, but in the adult, few somatic cells have telomerase activity. Telomeres therefore gradually shorten over the lifetime of a cell. Erosion of chromosome ends eventually limits the number of times a normal cell can divide. In a cancer cell, inappropriate activation of telomerase allows the cell to continue to divide

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