Genetic link found to premature aging

June 11, 2007 at 2:04 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, June 11 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have found deleting a gene important in embryo development leads to premature aging and loss of stem cell reservoirs in adult mice.

Researchers at the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute of the University of Pennsylvania discovered the gene, ATR, is essential for the body's response to damaged DNA, and mutations in proteins in the DNA damage response underlie certain types of cancer and other disorders in humans.

The scientists found mouse cells without ATR had an overwhelming amount of DNA damage and could not contribute to tissue renewal. But the 10 percent to 20 percent of cells that escaped ATR deletion were able to reconstitute tissues in the engineered mice, at least initially. However, in the long run, even those cells were insufficient to maintain tissue integrity.

"The reason these mice age prematurely is that we're exhausting their ability to renew tissues," said Eric Brown, assistant professor of Cancer Biology. "These findings may be helpful to the aging and oncology fields. since premature aging syndromes and many cancers involve the loss of DNA repair genes."

The research is detailed in the inaugural issue of Cell Stem Cell.

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