immortality as an engineering problem

James james at nospam.com
Sun Jul 19 15:13:53 EST 1998

> > >I've been wondering... is the introduction of
> > >hTERT into a cell a one-time operation, or does
> > >it eventually "wear out" and have to be re-
> > >introduced?

It is not acutally telomerase (the protein) that is being introduced into the
cell.  It is the DNA coding for the catalytic unit of telomerase.  As such, there
is no reason to suspect that it would wear out or run out.  But, for reasons that I
believe are unknown, recombinant DNA is not always stably intergrated into the
host's genome.  So it is possible that at some point it would "pop out" and future
generations would no longer have it.  I don't see that as any big deal because a)
you have already reaped a substantial benefit, and b) you can always do the
treatment again if you have to.

> So, does the mere presence of telomerase trigger
> cell division? My understanding was that certain
> cells in the human body contain telomerase
> naturally, without going cancerous.

No, the presence of telomeres of a sufficient length permits, but is not sufficient
for (by itself), cell division.  There is a large array of other factors that
govern cell cycle, and telomerase just helps to removes one block.

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