BALTIMORE, April 27 (UPI) -- Researchers at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore have identified a gene that, when altered, makes cells and animals age prematurely and die.
The gene, called PASG for Proliferation Associated SNF2-like Gene, appears to help cells regenerate, mature and prevent early aging.
"To keep body tissues working correctly, the PASG gene appears to help cells regenerate, mature and prevent early aging," said study leader Dr. Robert Arceci. "Each cell is programmed with a set number of replications before it dies. With a mutated PASG gene, the cell may replicate only a fraction of the time, and then it dies prematurely."
If PASG's activity could be blocked in human cancer cells, scientists could potentially cause them to age faster and die earlier, Arceci said.
The researchers are beginning to screen compounds for activity in blocking the PASG gene in tumor cells and mice. Human studies are not planned at this time.
The study is published in the May 1 edition of Genes and Development.