Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Gene Therapy Ages Human Cancer Cells in Lab

samzenpus posted more than 9 years ago | from the my-tumor-feels-10-years-older dept.

Biotech 318

mattr writes "Korean scientists are the first in the world to selectively age off and kill human cancer cells, by injecting a gene that suppresses telomerase, a cancer-specific enzyme that normally makes cancer cells immortal by protecting the telomere tips of their chromosomes. The telomere length modulation mechanism was found by two scientists from Yonsei University and colleagues at U. Central Florida, and is reported in the April 1 issue of Genes and Development magazine."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Finally! (5, Funny)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162394)

The perfect aging drug! Now I can look older and act younger!

Do not mod this up. (0, Troll)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162403)

It is simply not funny. I am not amused. That is all.

who gets credit (1, Insightful)

cRueLio (679516) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162397)

my bet is that the in the end the korean guys will be forgotten and only the americans will be remembered... same thing happens on a smaller scale with the graduate students doing the research and the professor... that's how it works. it's not fair.

Re:who gets credit (1, Flamebait)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162440)

Do you have any proof of this or are you just talking out your ass?

Re:who gets credit (3, Funny)

shigelojoe (590080) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162460)

Do you have any proof of this or are you just talking out your ass?

You must be new here.

Re:who gets credit (0, Offtopic)

shigelojoe (590080) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162482)

Gee, maybe I should have noticed that you had a 4 digit user ID first.

Consider me duly shamed.

Re:who gets credit (0, Troll)

msgregory@earthlink. (98641) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162535)

You'd have to be truly pathetic to be taken out by a four digit number.

Re:who gets credit (1, Funny)

maelstrom (638) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162614)

Fuck low UID slashdotters.

Re:who gets credit (0, Troll)

Floaty_Spice (849223) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162647)

Don't be shamed. This blowhard probably purchased his 4digit ID on ebay. Looking back over his previous posts he is a troll who is continually rewarded for his ignorance by noob mods who are also star-struck with his 4 digit id. The point is, this guy made a stupid point when he tried to dismiss you and you've accepted it, just because he has lowid. Show some character, this guys is an imbecile deserving only of your scorn.

Re:who gets credit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162451)

That's really not very insightful.

Put 6 graduate students in a room without a professor's guidance, watch and see how much work gets done in one hand, and shit it in the other... guess which one fills first, if at all.

The professor really is the person who knows what is going on, but they physically can't do the work because of all the administrative and teaching tasks... and not to mention, they have to go out and compete to get the money to fund the damn thing in first place. It's not like the money knocks on the door.

Re:who gets credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162679)

Put 6 graduate students in a room without a professor's guidance, watch and see how much work gets done in one hand, and shit it in the other... guess which one fills first, if at all.
Man you sound like Bush on that one, I think you mean "Spit in one hand, wish in the other, and see which gets full faster."

Re:who gets credit (3, Insightful)

deathcloset (626704) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162463)

well, are you going to forget? I'm not.

so long as we remember and make sure to cite and post what we remember and write articles for wikipedia on what we remember then such things will not be forgotten or overlooked.

these days "they" are less and less often the media and the journals.

"They" is becomming "us", and I love it.

Re:who gets credit (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162501)

Shrub will see to it no american gets to work on such an immoral technology.

Re:who gets credit (1)

ChuckSchwab (813568) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162517)

That's common knowledge to anyone wanting to become a graduate student. Don't like it? Don't become a graduate student. It's fair in the sense that people know the costs going in.

Re:who gets credit (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162519)

Eh, in Korea, only old cancer cells get credit.

Re:who gets credit (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162803)

I know it sounds very progressive to make those sort of assertions, but they don't have much merit. Anyone with even a rudimentary scientific background will tell you that key scientific breakthroughs come from all over. As a matter of fact, in the past few years there has been a considerable amount of concern within the American scientific community over the lag in American research and publication. Research just isn't a priority anymore in America, and we are beginning to feel the effect.

My guess is that the Korean scientists will keep their credit, just like the Koreans scientists who recently successfully generated stem cells from somatic adult tissues, just like the Dutchman who came up with the microscope, just like the Moravian monk who counted peas, just like the Swede Botanist retained credit for the Linnaean classification, just like the Russian Chemist retained credit for the periodic table, just like 10th century Arabs retained credit for much of Algebra, just like citizens of Greek city-states retain credit for beginning to formalize reason.

The capacity for human genius is universal, and in the reality based community known as science, we appreciate that. It belittles the intellects of foreign researchers and the hard work of American scientists to say otherwise.

Re:who gets credit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162844)

Graduate students get credit, at least in the sciences. That's why there's almost always more than two authors on a paper. The first author is the lead graduate student / postdoc, the last author is the professor. Everyone involved understands this, and since (the majority of) graduate students work on ideas and projects designed by the professor before the student even entered the lab, executed with the professor's grant money, it's the professors work.

As far as the credit: first author a paper in Science and get a post-doc in every lab you apply to.

Pretty cool... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162406)

I think I'm gonna have a cigarette now.

is anyone worried (0, Troll)

sfcat (872532) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162409)

that this was reported on April Fools Day.

Cool.. but some questions. (4, Insightful)

daquake (307570) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162414)

This is incredible in theory, but what time frame are we talking about in humans once this gene is injected? Will it adversely affect human cells? I read it targets a cancer specific enzyme but am I missing anything? Could this be a cure, after the fact? (Bio-Medical newbie here).

Fertility is a big problem (5, Interesting)

Seoulstriker (748895) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162446)

Inhibiting telomerase has a significant problem: it kills off the gametocytes, which need telomerase to reproduce constantly but still have constant length telomeres. The side effect has to be infertility, unless the researchers found a receptor or variation in cancer cells which allows selective target for the vector. I have a feeling that it is not what they did, since the cancer cells were grown in a tissue culture, and not in vivo. We'll have to wait for human studies to see where this is going.

This mechanism has been studied for a very long time, but this must be the first time that researchers have been successful in manufacturing the vectors.

Of course, there are still promising treatments such as angiogenesis inhibitors which has the benefit of not losing fertility.

Re:Fertility is a big problem (3, Insightful)

pmazer (813537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162620)

I think loosing fertility is a suitable side-effect for most people with cancer. If this works 100% or at least if you can tell if it will work or if it won't, then most people will be happy to give up their fertility in exchange for ridding their body of a potentially deadly enzyme. Also, this will be a wonder drug for seniors, who could most likely care less about fertility and who chemotherapy will make incredibly weak and not worth living.

Re:Fertility is a big problem (4, Insightful)

ag0ny (59629) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162673)

Infertility is also a side-effect of, well, being dead because of cancer.

If you were given the choice between being alive but infertile or being dead, which one would you choose?

Re:Fertility is a big problem (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162790)

If you are a man you could always go down and have some of your boys frozen before you get the therapy.

fertiliy loss (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162685)

Cancer patients are worried about loss of life, not loss of fertility. Fertility loss is manageable. First of all, loss of fertility is an acceptable trade off if it means you won't die of cancer. But if it is a concern, you simply bank some of your sperm or eggs before undergoing the procedure.

Also keep in mind that the vast majority of cancers strike later in life when, presumeably, you are less likely to want to have, or to be capable of having, children.

Fertility is not a big problem (1)

BigJStudd (838390) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162762)

Fertility a big problem? There are two groups of people who will have Cancer. One is the people who are genetically inclined (and will have the disease at a young age). The second is the group that is old enough that environmental radiation and carcinogens have damaged enough genes to have triggered the disease. If you are in the first group, you are liable to get checked all the time. If you are in the second group, reproduction is not a high priority.

Re:Fertility is a big problem (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162847)

I won't argue on behalf of the "If you're dead you're infertile, too" line. Personally, if I still intended to have kids, I'd opt for surgery before going with a treatment that could make me infertile.

And I think many people would have the same view. However, there's a huge number of cancer patients out there who've already had their kids and even grandkids, and risk of infertility could very well be a nonissue for them, while the health dangers of chemo could be too great.

Re:Fertility is a big problem (1)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162860)

If I had cancer, I would care more about dying than fertility. Are you saying that if I took this drug, it would mean I wouldn't need to have a vasectomy? Sounds like a win-win to me.

Re:Fertility is a big problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162933)

Angiogensis inhibitors? Oh, great: kill all my veinage. Blood is so retro.

Geeze. Just have kids first. Old people are getting most of the cancer anyway.

Re:Cool.. but some questions. (2, Informative)

teh*fink (618609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162477)

(i was just studying this)

the /. blurb is misinformative, as telomerase is far from a "cancer-specific" enzyme. it is present in many "normal" cells, including sperm and stem cells. also, a cure would not be as simple as just injecting telomerase into a cancerous cell.

wikipedia article []

Stem cells being affected is even worse (3, Informative)

Seoulstriker (748895) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162539)

If bone marrow stem cells are also affected by this treatment, you can have problems with production of T-cells (CD4+ and CD8+) and erythrocytes (red blood cells). I wish that they would have at least done tests on other types of human cells. The journal article becomes available April 15th, so we shall see what all the fuss is about.

Screw that... (1)

gremlins (588904) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162611)

I want figure out how to start protecting the telomere tips of my chromosomes.

I wonder... (2, Interesting)

wavephorm (838222) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162420)

So they can selectively age cells through gene theraphy... Can we do the inverse to stop the aging of other cells?

Re:I wonder... (2, Funny)

krf (873528) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162439)

Yeah, but it actually throws the works into reverse. It's great for the first few years, but then you have to go through toilet training in reverse.

And let's just say it goes downhill from there.

Re:I wonder... (4, Funny)

DarkMantle (784415) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162479)

but then you have to go through toilet training in reverse.

This happens anyway. Haven't you heard of adult diapers?

Re:I wonder... (1)

wavephorm (838222) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162651)

Awesome, my new three step plan to riches is now: 1. Control Cell Life through Tolmerase 2. Invest in shit rags 3. Profit!!!

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162443)

that's pretty much what makes it cancer in the first place

Re:I wonder... (3, Funny)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162444)

You missed the point where they had to inject each cell to target it. If we just uniformly make all cells immortal, then we would have out of control cell reproduction. You know, kind of like cancer.

The real trick would be to figure out how to hold the human body at the point of equilibrium for 18 to 21 years of age.

Never mind that. Then we couldn't legally get beer. 8-)

Re:I wonder... (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162513)

so... turn on the telomerase and turn off the replication!!!!

oh.. wait... then we would not be able to regenerate damaged tissue... darn it!!!

I know I know... telomerase on... cell replication off... then make a machine that turns on selected cells and accelerates their division until you turn off the machine..

HA!! Im filing a patent right now!!!

Re:I wonder... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162863)

I always wondered how stasis chambers and dermal regenerators worked on Star Trek. Thanks... ;)

Re:I wonder... (1)

therodent (253032) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162518)

Eh, I would start earlier than that if you really want to slow your rate of aging.

Most of the hard aging is done between puberty and 20, when all your homones ramp up to obscene levels. Bad I tell ya.

Re:I wonder... (2, Insightful)

TrashGod (752833) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162459)

Can we ... stop the aging of other cells?

Yes, but immortality is a feature of cancerous cells. That might be a Bad Idea.

Only one feature... (1)

Seoulstriker (748895) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162574)

immortality is a feature of cancerous cells

It's only one feature of cancerous cells. Another important factor is de-regulation of the cell-cycle by degradation of critical proteins such as p53. If cells can somehow be treated for the other factors involved in cells becoming cancerous, it might be possible that expressing telomerase in all cells could eliminate the aging process. But doing so is extremely difficult and is beyond us. If we could, we would have figured out how to stop another mechanism of cancer progression! :-)

Re:I wonder... (2, Informative)

Yotsuya (4378) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162546)

You don't want immortal cells. What you want is cells that can be regenerated. Infinitely.

Using data from April 1st publication? (0, Troll)

who got my name (846949) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162424)

Those people got to be fools...

Re:Using data from April 1st publication? (1)

daquake (307570) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162436)

The post date from donga is April 3'rd. That's the more important one I belive, though I'd like to hear more about it.

Koreans (5, Interesting)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162427)

In Korea, only cancer gets old!

But seriously, this is very interesting. When telomeres started getting press a few years back, it was really obvious that this would eventually be the key to managing cancer. (And if Alex Chiu gets his way, the key to immortality).

If cells age because child cells of a mitosified cell contain fewer telomeres, then something that prevented that telomeric loss would lead to an eternal lifetime for splitting cells.

What has interested me about this is that babies are born with a full set of telomeres. This means that the telomeric levels of the parent (mother) is not passed to the child. All other cells in a person's body are dependent on the number of telomeres present in those first few cells clumped together in the womb.

By blocking fetal tissue research, the harvesting of these precious cells is hampered. The reasons for fetal research are many, and the study of telomeres is one big area that simply can't be replicated with non-fetal stem cells.

Re:Koreans (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162515)

And if Alex Chiu gets his way, the key to immortality

You can already be immortal if you buy the magnets. It's the damn democrats and their public schools and culture of death that's brainwashing you into thinking they don't work.

Re:Koreans (1)

Mhrmnhrm (263196) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162543)

Disclaimer: I'm not a biologist!
IIRC, only human fetal research is banned. Unless humans are somehow unique, I'd bet that most mammalian life on the planet goes through the same process we do (afterall, we all look like the same little mouse at one stage, then we look like monkeys with tails, and then our tails just stop growing). Yes, eventually study on humans may be necessary for the last puzzle piece, but odds are we can put most of the puzzle together with mice, rats, dogs, cats, pigs, cows, horses, wombats, and maybe even a stray moose.

De-Evolution, man! (1)

pegr (46683) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162699)

afterall, we all look like the same little mouse at one stage, then we look like monkeys with tails

"They tell us that, we lost our tails, evolving up, from little snails..."

(Note to self: Don't post while drinking...)

Re:Koreans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162780)

IIRC, only human fetal research is banned.

Actually, nothing is "banned". The issue is federal funding -- there is no "ban", despite what everyone thinks.

Re:Koreans (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162828)

well true but if you do use fetal cells for research which are not controlled by the government they take away all you government funding. Since the medical community is largly funded by the government it makes it extremely hard to do this research. In a sense the government basically has banned it. Taking away all of someones money because they did something you don't like is pretty much the same as banning it but in a really nice way since you don't go to prison for violating the law.

Conspiracy Theory of mine (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162618)

is that the Bush administration realizes quite well that stem research could potentially create 'cure for death' and it is not good for the program to have people who are immortal. And by the program I mean the grand plan. I better shut the hell up just about now.

Re:Koreans (5, Informative)

Spud Stud (739387) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162687)

To be fair, fetal tissue research has not been blocked. Only federal funding thereof - privately funded research may proceed unabated.

the key? or a key? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162777)

It's not clear that it is "the" key. The real solution may arise with techniques that have little to do with the modifying the expression of genes that affect the telomeres of chromosomes. "Injecting" genes into only cancer cells is difficult. Getting them into all cancer cells is also difficult. Genenticly engineered viruses are often touted as the ideal mechanism for delivering these genes.

Designer drug cocktails that shortcircuit or enhance the various pathways involved in currently untreatable cancers may prove more effective in managment and treatment of these diseases. This may be the real key.

Right now, there' still a big problem cataloging exactly what's going wrong in a tumor; inviduals often have different sub-diseases. Surveying the disease and prescribing a custom, precision remedy is on the horizon.

Stem cells certainly are interesting but I'm not sure that "stem cell research is blocked". U.S. Government funding is prohibited for harvesting new fetal stem cells, but that doesn't mean private industry can't do it and that doesn't mean foreign concerns can't do it.

The federales should loosen the restrictions; but it's not a complete roadblock.

Re:Koreans (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162831)

If cells age because child cells of a mitosified cell contain fewer telomeres, then something that prevented that telomeric loss would lead to an eternal lifetime for splitting cells.

Yes, but if I right understood the article, it talks about supressing telomerase which prevents telomeric loss for cancer cells. Telomerase has no effect on healthy cells and can therefore not be used to prevent human cells from aging. The experiment does the opposite, it leads abnormal cells to a dying process.

Re:Koreans (1)

Jacked (785403) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162880)

I wish I had some mod points, I'd mod up Spud Stud's comment. Fetal tissue research has not been blocked. Why is it so hard for the public at large to understand that not funding something is not the same as blocking, banning, or outlawing something.

Otherwise, interesting post...

Hey, we cured cancer... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162429)

Hey! We cured cancer! No, just messin' with yah... april fools!

Telomerase not only in cancer cells... (3, Interesting)

Necromancyr (602950) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162435)

Telomerase is not only in cancer cells, it's in a bunch of other kind of cells - generally ones long lasting. That's what gave the idea in the first place to do research along these lines. The Wikipedia isn't totally off, would be a good thing to read for correct information: []

Go Knights! (4, Funny)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162441)

The University of Central Florida doesn't get any credit because we don't have a good football team, but this is the third /. piece featuring the school in the past six months. How's for some nerd credit?

Re:Go Knights! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162845)

They do have a good Comp Sci program...

But they have a partnership with EA, so they're the devil!

Oh, plus I'm a Gator...

In normal human cells... (5, Interesting)

racecarj (703239) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162449)

What isn't clearly mentioned is that telomerase is *inactive* in normal human cells. We're born with our telomeres at a certain length, and they're never renewed. That's why some cancers are unique in that they reactivate this latent gene therebye making them immortal; for example, Hela cells are used in every lab across the country. They originally were taken out of some woman's breast cancer in the 50's and they're still thriving! As a matter of fact, while she's long dead, there's still several tons of her! But even if you were to turn off a reactivated telomerase gene, it is logical to believe that they would begin to age normally; ie, if the person with the cancer is in his 50's, the cancer might not die for several decades. The important thing to remember is that *every* cancer in every person is different on a molecular level. They are all unique, and that is why we'll never have a blanket cure for cancer. What we will eventually have is effective treatment for currently untreatable types, which is a different story all together.

Re:In normal human cells... (2, Informative)

Quirk (36086) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162773)

HeLa cells have an interesting history, they were derived from the cervical carcinoma of Henrietta Lacks [] . There is a theory that the loss of telomere length is at the root of aging. I recall reading that HeLa cells were sent up on Voyager, although I can't immediately recall the source.

Re:In normal human cells... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162884)

with the cancer is in his 50's, the cancer might not die for several decades.

Because the cancer cells divide rapidly, they will die off a lot quicker than normal human cells will.

What we really need is a way to modulate telomerase. That is, turn it on in all cells long enough to restore the telomeres and then turn it back off to minimize cancer risks. I'm sure there are many risks from such a procedure, but it would also potentially double the lifespan with a single treatment. The the same treatment could mitigate the associated cancer risks.

need more grant money (1, Insightful)

qewl (671495) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162470)

This is exactly why the United States needs to donate more money to basic research. Of late science has seemed unimportant to the government, research funds have reduced and things aren't being done to provoke technologies. Instead of the government subsidizing all sorts of medications from the drug industries, there just needs to be more research towards more permanent alternatives and a reduction in patent powers. There are gene therapies for AIDS coming out and candidates for vaccines, but yet the US government still spends more money on sending current drugs out than actually thinking long term. This is sad when a small country like Korea has gotten ahead of the US and they certainly have in stem cell research and now potetially gene therapy. It would be great to have California's CIRM on a larger level.

American corporate science==Low lying fruit (0)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162807)

American science, as now shaped by the neoliberal corporate regimes in place since 1980 is now all about reaping the low lying fruit. Other countries are now the ones doing the real research, or it will be that way pretty soon.

Re:need more grant money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162810)

This is exactly why the United States needs to donate more money to basic research. Of late science has seemed unimportant to the government, research funds have reduced and things aren't being done to provoke technologies.

I'm not sure why you think that -- NIH funding has gone up every year under Bush, even this year while most programs have been held steady or cut.

(To be honest, a more accurate comment would be that you don't have the slightest fucking clue what you're talking about. Pretty much every sentence in there is ludicrously false.)

Re:need more grant money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162882)

Well remember that there is alittle thing called inflation and though the funding increases it doesn't do enough to cover inflation or just barely covers it. And he was talking about basic research or general science as in long term. The new funding is primarliy going to specific research for short term projects and benifits. For example the this research that the Koreans are doing has no imediate affects on society and won't for a very long time if it has any affects at all. Its a long term project with no garentees. Thats not what the US is doing. The American government wants quick and easy benifits that it can profit from now not 20 or 30 years from now. Do you see the difference in funding. Hopefully this will clarify a few things for you.

Re:need more grant money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162915)

Actually, you are the one that is being inaccurate. Currently, all science funding in the US is being cut, held constant, or reduced to small increases that are still below inflation, all of which equate to being cut. Also, the NIH may be a common face for research to many people, but the real ground breaking, basic research that will drive science in 50 years plus is the basic work funded by the NSF, the Department of Energy, and various civilian research programs within the Department of Defense. These are all being cut under Bush. Also, under the Bush administration I have for the first time actually had a creationist on my NSF panel for Genome Evolution. The guy has no credentials and I am horrified by the lack of professional quality that the current administration introduced into the scientific funding system. Some of this occurred by moving many managers to the Department of Homeland Security (one reason a large renewal of a multi-university grant was held up for six additional months last year). After this reorganization, some of the new appointments and committee members are simply not qualified to evaluate research proposals. I don't know what it's like in other fields, but in evolutionary biology there are some potentially worrisome trends.

Weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162483)

Does this have military weapon applications?

Re:Weapon (1)

therodent (253032) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162532)

Sure -- some sort of air dispersed virus that codes for telemerase would give all those lucky enough to catch it cancer in all infected cells (or at least would set the stage)

Re:Weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162753)

Agent Orange would do just as well, so what's the point.

Obvious question (5, Insightful)

ChuckSchwab (813568) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162494)

If telomerase makes cancer cells immortal, is someone working on a way to make, uh, non-cancer cells immortal?

No! (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162713)

There are too many people on the freeway as it is now.

I can just see it - carpool lanes full of 200 year old driver's - heads barely poking up above the steering wheel of her 2124 Buicks, on the way to bingo parlours, with the numbers drawn announced by actual Dick Clark(tm) clones.

Re:Obvious question (1)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162740)

Alex Chiu [] has beaten you to it already.

Must kill host... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162775)

What self-respecting cancer cell desires immortality?

Must kill host, must kill host, must kill host...

Re:Obvious question (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162855)

No. Making non-cancer cells immortal is not a wise idea. If you are making non-cancerous cells immortal, you are bring yourself one step closer to cancer.

In order for a cell to become cancerous, there essentially needs to be two mutations to occur. One mutation that allows for immortality (e.g. telomerase), and one to DISregulate growth. If a cell is no longer properly inhibited (loss of a tumor repressor gene) or abnormally activated (activation of an oncogenic gene), the cell can start deviding out of control. If the cell line is not immortal, eventually, due to the inability for DNA transcription to fully replicate the DNA strands (it can't get all of the end, aka "the telomeres"). Eventually, the telemere is used up, and genes are lost, eventually leading to non-viable cells. If the cell can escape this problem, it can grow forever and for a tumor).

I think that people are getting a little confused on the "aging" issue. Its not like they are doing something to make cancerous cells age faster, what they are doing is forcing the cells to age normally like any other cell in the body (except those that don't, e.g. your stem cells that make your blood cells).

Another way to think about all this is to say that your body has two ways of preventing cancer. 1, it regulates when cells are allowed to devide, and 2, if mechanism one fails, cells have a built in time bomb that prevents them from deviding more than a certain number of times. If we removed this failsafe, loss of mechanism one would lead to a LOT of cancers forming in your body.

It has been looked into, of course (1)

StimpyPimp (821985) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162866)

Sorry for my bad memmory, but I can't remember what species of bird they studied, but its chromosomes had caps on the ends, like cancer seems to, so the bird can live much longer that others of its size. They said if they could carry the same trait to humans... tada! Longer life.

Hey baby, my telomere length is modulating... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162510)

..protecting the telomere tips of their chromosomes.

The telomere length modulation mechanism...

I bet those Korean scientists thought up some awesome pick-up lines. They must be drowning in hot Korean babes.

I'm so jealous!

new todo list (4, Funny)

hedley (8715) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162521)

1) Eat more charred foods
2) Use the cell phone handset a lot more
3) picnic under high tension wires often
4) cheap cigarettes from Canada
5) Use more liquids ending in -ene, -ide
6) Have more food colouring parties
7) Break out that Roentgen tube lying in the attic, make some cool photos.
8) Work with small fibres and dusts as often as possible.

Yep, now I can really break loose...


Got a sweet tooth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162549)

Time to buy a crate [] .

Re:Got a sweet tooth? (2, Insightful)

utexaspunk (527541) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162692)

Actually, saccharin doesn't cause cancer in humans. A few years ago, it was found that the mechanism which caused the bladder tumors in rats does not happen in humans. Notice how they no longer print the warning on packages of sweet'n'low? Besides, they had to feed the rats TONS of it to get them to develop the tumors anyway.

Re:Got a sweet tooth? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162737)

What they don't tell you about that study is that the rats were also habitual smokers, sad really...

Re:Got a sweet tooth? (1)

StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162846)

But it *may* cause alzheimer's like symptoms. Interesting corlation on the number of cases of diabetics having odd symptoms BEFORE saccharin amd the number of cases AFTER the introduction of saccharin.

A concern of mine, as a member of my immediate family has Type II. Regardless, not passing out from elevated blood sugar levels (100% chance) certainly beats a chance at palsy and forgetfulness.

And of course, now we are the test subjects of a new version, sucralose! Which may or may not be any better; only time will tell. HOPEFULLY the fact that it is derived from sugar is actually a benefit; however, I've made rocket fuel out of sugar before, so I'm not all that reassured.

Korean scientists confirm it... (1)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162575)

Human cancer cells are DYING.

selectively? (2, Interesting)

spamchang (302052) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162600)

they don't know how the gene works, they've only killed off in vitro cells, and they haven't tested it in the context of cancer cells surrounding normal cells. how can this be selective? for all we know, the mechanism could accelerate the removal of telomeres in normal cells. really, what does "selectively" mean here, besides that they selected only cancer cells to test the gene on?

afaik, telomerase breaks down telomeres, no matter what kind of cell you have. most cancer cells inhibit telomerase to allow survival, so you'd have to inhibit the telomerase inhibitor.

You've got it backwards (3, Insightful)

IdahoEv (195056) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162886)

afaik, telomerase breaks down telomeres, no matter what kind of cell you have.

That's upside-down. Telomeres automatically shorten themselves with every cell division. Cells with very short telomeres die. This acts to limit cell divison, and probably exists (among other reasons) to limit runaway growth like cancer. Telomerase is not involved in this process at all, and in fact is not present in most normal cells.

Telomerase acts to lengthen telomeres so that the cells in question can keep dividing. Telomerase exists likely so that cell which do need to divide forever (like germ cells and bone marrow cells) can overcome the telomere limit imposed on the rest of the body.

afaik, telomerase breaks down telomeres, no matter what kind of cell you have.

Again, that's backwards. Most cancer cells express telomerase where the normal cell wouldn't. This lengthens the telomeres and allows cell division to continue.

Thus, inhibiting telomerase will re-impose the division limit on cancer cells, suppressing tumor growth. That's what this study claims to do.


Telomere: passive cancer suppressor/division limiter present in every cell.

Telomerase: enzyme to allow a few special-case cells to keep dividing despite telomeres.

Cancer: often turns on telomerase in cell types where it should be dormant.

Re:You've got it backwards (3, Informative)

IdahoEv (195056) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162896)

Oops - second quote should have been:

most cancer cells inhibit telomerase to allow survival, so you'd have to inhibit the telomerase inhibitor.

spiffy! (1)

RocketRainbow (750071) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162623)

This is great! Now we can all research beer without those sarcastic Fark headlines. We can move to Paris and start smoking. And I plan to save money by drinking Ukranian mineral water instead of Italian. Who's with me?

Killing cancer is the easy part. (4, Interesting)

zymano (581466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162637)

Finding it and then inserting genes or drugs to kill it is hard.

Gene therapy using viruses has failed because the body attacks the modified virus . Some people have died because of this and research was stopped.

There are some new ideas on using HIV virus which is harder for the immune system to attack.

Re:Killing cancer is the easy part. (1)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162811)

Gene therapy using viruses has failed because the body attacks the modified virus.

Really? I thought it was because they didn't have a way to control WHERE the genes got inserted, and sometimes they ended up getting inserted in a place that caused leukemia.

Or maybe both were problems?

This is nice... (1)

dteichman2 (841599) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162761)

This is cool... but according to what I learned in AP Biology, anyone who recieves this treatment will no longer be able to reproduce. I guess that's a lot better than having cancer.

This is definately a very promising concept. It's absolutely bounds ahead of previous treatment concepts, and with refinement, it may prove very effective.

Re:This is nice... (1)

PetriPal (874076) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162936)

no longer able to reproduce, that is why the TVAX vaccine was tried on prostate cancer first, obviously when you are dying, it doesn't matter if you can make babies anymore. However, germ cells don't OVERPRODUCE telomerase, they make and release a tiny bit compared to a cancer cell. You might kill a few, but your not going to be shooting blanks. 90% of all human cancer is telomerase dependent. The other 10% of human cancers probably havent been tested for it. Check out . These Koreans are full of it. In the 1990's Geron's Elizabeth Blackburn discovered the telomerase gene. They have been killing human zenografted cancer with thier inhibitor drug for a couple of years, they are ready to file the IND app with the FDA and the TVAX (hunter seeker for telomerase overproducing cells) is now entering phase 2 human trials at duke after kicking the hell out of cancer in the phase one human trial at Duke. The vaccine in phase 2 will also include a monthly booster shot to maintain immune response by cd8's and cd4's. So it isn't permanent, it's perfect. After you kill off the cancer cells, and mutated cells, turn on telomerase again and extend your lifespan by 40 years. Geron does this every day in their stem cell research. Their human trial for spinal cord repair is next year. See the video where they made rats walk again.

But America leads the world in science (0, Troll)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162781)

sure we did, five decades ago. And now our "free trade, open markets" vultures have bled us so much that little countries like Korea are kicking our ass....

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162889)

Explain? You are saying it should be illegal for someone to spread ideas across borders? If I wanted to tell a person in Korea an idea .. and I happen to be in America .. that should be illegal or controlled somehow??

"Either you not talk to other humans outside the border or leave" .. is that the mentality?

Also why cant an american buy something from a person who lives in a different country? Just because somebody lives across the border? You are restricting humans from trading with each other. What happened to individual liberty? Sorry but at what point does a country stop owning its people?

Re:But America leads the world in science (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162934)

I think the US should spin this as bioterrorism & shuld just bomb Korea out of existence. Colin Powell can give a speech about a Cancerous cloud & scare people.

Amazing... (2, Funny)

torrents (827493) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162808)

"reported in the April 1 issue of Genes and Development"

I just hope it's not some cruel April Fools joke...

Geron Turns Telomerase on/off like light switch (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162851)

Their TVAX vaccine against cancer in a phase one at Duke caused the strongest human immune system against cancer that has ever been seen in a cancer vaccine. 19 out of 21 men with hormone refractory prostate cancer with mets, saw thier blood become free of cancer. For some there was a thousand fold reduction in the number of blood born cells. Dr's Vieweg and Bilboa are tweaking the vaccine for the phase 2 now recruiting at Duke, see Geron's web page and click on patient info, it gives you dukes number. No side effect were observed. It only targets cancer cells, which for the most part externally signal that they are making a lot of telomerase. May also be recruiting for primary kidney as well as hormone refractory prostate cancer with mets. Their other drug candidate, GRN163L is a oligo, that directly and strongly binds telomerase so it can't lengthen telomere tails. No toxicity was seen in the animal trials till they had exceeded 8 times the maximum theraputic dose. Cancer is screwed soon. Geron is using telomerase to promote the growth of stem cells in commercial scaled, (for treatments and trials). When you were in the womb, during the first trimeste of pregnancy, you produced telomerase like crazy, then it shuts off after the first trimester. If it turns on later in life, it can be real bad if the other mutations that cancer needs are also present. That's cancer. A cell gets in trouble, and doesn't die because of telomerase, but it isnt a bad thing, its the other mutations that, if present, make the cancer. Telomerase just provides the cancer cell with immortality and promotes cell division. Viral attacked cells, and warts, have telomerase turned on, but they don't have the other bad mutations too, if they get them, cancer happens. EGCG from green tea is a direct telomerase inhibitor too, need ten cups a day , try the extract capsules, each one like 4 cups of green tea per day. Put them in your coffee, it turns out that in the lab and in animals, green tea with caffiene is far more effective at killing cancer cells than the decaf green tea.

my cousin (5, Interesting)

ocularDeathRay (760450) | more than 9 years ago | (#12162862)

wow. I am glad to see some good news like this. I have a cousin dying of leukemia(sp?) who probably won't live through the weekend. She is 37 yrs old. she has 4 kids... the younger ones are 2 and 4.

At times like this it is hard not to get mad at the medical profession. On the other hand I have a great appreciation for what medicine has done for my family.

The cousin I mentioned got an extra year of life because of an experimental stem cell (no not the kind thats been in the news) transplant.

My father has had open heart surgery twice. He is 64 years old and still goes backpacking with my brother and I.

My mom, although a survivor has had cancer 3 seperate times: breast cancer in each breast and a melanoma in her eye.

It is from the latter that I gained a great respect for medical research, and it is why I smile reading a story like this article.

when she had her eye cancer there was a new experimental treatment at the UW hospital here in seattle. They cut her eye open and sewed a patch of radioactive material over the tumor. They then sewed the eye shut and sent her home for several days with a lead shield over her eye.

Then they took her back to the hospital and cut the eye open again and removed the patch. Over the course of the next year the tumor died back (we know because of the ultrasound and other tests they do on her). Now she has finally lost the last of the usefull sight in that eye. The sight-loss is due to the close proximity of the radiation treatment to the optic nerve.

The only other treatment at the time was to remove the eye completely. With the radiation treatment she got many years of good sight out of that eye she wouldn't have had.

It is funny to me that at the time that treatment seemed so high tech. now it just sounds barbaric. cutting the eye open twice... so invasive. Now this article highlights something that may, in our lifetime be the new exciting experimental cancer treatment, and our kids (if they can still afford health care) will wonder how we endured such brutal treatment (I would suspect no cancer treatment in our lifetime will be FUN anyway)

I guess my cousin's situation has me in an extra thoughtful mood tonight.

some facts and a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12162913)

Telomerase is an endogenous protein; working within our own cells when they replicate. It is specifically turned off on our adult cells; presumably to protect us from the ravages of cancer. It is one piece of the puzzle of age. Only our gametes continue to produce it, for the benifit of the next generation.

Cancer arrises out of a number of genetic errors, and one of them is the reactivation of this protein. It is necessary to continue through unregulated cell growth characteristic of cancer. In fact, it is common for tumor tissues to divide rapidly until their shortened telomeres begin to cut into key genes and slow them down. This puts a halt to the tumor, unless some of the tumor cells have managed to reactivate the telomerase gene. If you have heart of immortal cell lines, this is what they are talking about.

In an adult human only some cell types are continuously replicating at an appreciable rate: skin cells, brain support tissue (but not neurons), stomach and intestinal lining, germline cells, hair follicles, blood cells (in a special way) and so forth. Most types of chemo are based on this fact: "poison the system with something that will really screw up a dividing cell. Sure, it will cause some harm to the normal cells that are dividing, but it will really kick that dang cancer where it counts."

This has been compared to curing a nosebleed by putting a tournoquet at the neck. It is primitive.

It will take a number of divisions to have any pronounced effect. Telomeric ends aren't shortened that much during each replication. And the mutation rate in neoplastic cell culture is tremendous. My guess? It will slow growth, but occasionally produce strong selection for the subset of cancerous cells that have translocated key oncogenes and housekeeping genes to the center of badly scrambled chromosomes.

Men should never have children after taking this therapy. Women are fine; all their eggs were already made before birth.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?