Location, Location, Location?
In this issue of ATVB, Richardson et al1 investigate the contribution of telomerase in different cell types within the hematopoietic linage to the development of atherosclerosis. The study raises several interesting points that address an ongoing controversy whether telomere length (TL) is or is not an independent risk factor for development of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.
See accompanying article on page 1283
Telomerase consists of TERT (catalytic subunit) and TERC (RNA component) and is well described as an antiaging factor. The 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology was awarded to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak for their discoveries on how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.2 Although there are numerous substances that claim to elongate telomeres (mostly seen on late-night television), no drug conferring longevity by telomerase has been discovered. In contrast to the beneficial effects of chromosomal elongation to overall cellular and organismal heath, the nuclear actions of telomerase promote cellular immortality, contributing to the progression, but not development, of cancers.3 Not surprisingly, the role of telomerase activity (TA) and TL is mostly studied in the cancer literature,4 and TERT inhibition has been explored as a chemotherapeutic. Despite the potential utility of TERT inhibition in cancer, no Food and Drug Administration–approved telomerase inhibitors …