Drugs targeting Telomerase enzymecould probably wipe off the killer disease, cancer, and stop ageing process in the near future giving immortality to humans.
Telomerase enzyme activation in an errant manner is found to be the key for uncontrollable proliferation of cells seen in as many as 90 percent of all of human cancers.
Telomerase, which is also known as immortality enzyme, also has been shown to play a central role in normal aging.
Telomrase enzyme research has won Nobel Prize 2009 for three US based researchers: Elizabeth Blackburn an Australian-born professor at the University of California in San Francisco; Carol Greider, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore; and Jack Szostak a London-born professor at Harvard Medical School and investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
These three researchers share the 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.4 million) prize equally, for their initial important discoveries in the early days of telomerase research the Nobel Assembly said today at a press conference in Stockholm.
Their work revealed how the chromosomes can be copied and has helped further our understanding on human ageing, cancer and stem cells.
Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak discovered that a unique DNA sequence in the telomeres protects the chromosomes from degradation.
Carol Greider and Blackburn later investigated how the teleomeres themselves were made and the pair went on to discover telomerase – the enzyme that enables DNA polymerases to copy the entire length of the chromosome.
Telomerase enzyme forms snippets of DNA known as telomeres, which serve as protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. Human genes are packed into chromosomes, which are capped by telomeres.
Telomers, after several cell divisions become shorter that its chromosomes begin to wear out.
Aged cells die–unless, like “immortal” cancer cells, they produce telomerase, an enzyme that protects and even rebuilds telomeres.
Scientists have long dreamed of drugs that would inhibit the immortalizing enzyme so that they could harness rapidly proliferating cancer.
Cancer is a very difficult disease to fight because cancer cells are immortal. They continue dividing.
If a drug can be used to turn off telomerase in cancer cells, thier capacity to renew themselves through multiplying could come down leading to their destruction.
Drug companies, including Gerone and Merck are currently working on experimental drug and vaccine therapies targeting active telomerase.
Geron Corporation has four telomerase targetting vaccines and drugs in human clinical trials.
Merck, in association with Geron, has won a recent US FDA approval for an investigational vaccine.
The vaccines is adenovirus/plasmid based. Another GRNVAC1, formerly called TVAX,is an autologous dendritic cell based vaccine. GRNVAC1 was tested in Phase I clinical trials in prostate Cancer, and it showed significant prostate specific antigen doubling times as well as T-cell response.
Geron’s embryonic stem cell derived dendritic cell vaccine targeting telomerase is currently at the pre-clinical stage.
Geron’s drug GRN163L, which is in early stages of clinical trials, is a telomerase inhibitor drug attempts to stop cancer cell proliferation by inhibiting telomerase.
With telomerase enzyme drugs, we have a 50/50 chance of developing technology within about 25 to 30 years that will allow to stop people from dying of aging.
Around 150,000 people die each day worldwide—that’s nearly two per second—and of those, about two-thirds die of ageing.