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Cell biology

Risky immortalization by telomerase


Senescence naturally limits the proliferation of mammalian cells in culture, possibly by shortening the telomere regions at the ends of chromosomes during cell division1,2. In support of this idea, introducing TERT, the catalytic subunit of telomerase — the enzyme that maintains chromosome ends — into certain cell types can extend their lifespan and potentially immortalize them3,4. It has been proposed that treatment with exogenous TERT might be useful for cell-based therapies by allowing indefinite expansion of normal human cells without damaging their genomes5,6. But we show here that TERT-driven cell proliferation is not genoprotective because it is associated with activation of the c-myc oncogene.

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Figure 1: c-myc activity is increased in immortalized HMEC–hTERT cells.

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Correspondence to David H. Beach.

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Wang, J., Hannon, G. & Beach, D. Risky immortalization by telomerase. Nature 405, 755–756 (2000).

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