Gene Defect Linked to Premature Aging

Finding may also lead to new way to treat cancer, researchers say

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FRIDAY, April 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A gene defect linked to premature aging that may offer a new way to treat cancer has been identified by researchers at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

Using genetically engineered mice, the scientists found that when the gene PASG is altered, it causes cells and animals to age prematurely and die. This gene may provide a new target for therapies that force cancer cells to an early death.

The study appears in the May 1 issue of Genes and Development.

Mice with the mutated PASG gene suffered numerous problems such as low birth weight, graying and loss of hair, reduced fat, skeletal abnormalities and early death.

"To keep body tissues working correctly, the PASG gene appears to help cells regenerate, mature and prevent early aging. Each cell is programmed with a set number of replications before it dies. With a mutated PASG gene, the cell may replicate only a fraction of the time, and then it dies prematurely," study director Dr. Robert Arceci, King Fahd Professor and director of pediatric oncology, said in a prepared statement.

If PASG's activity could be blocked in cancer cells, it may be possible to make them age faster and die earlier, he said.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has information on the effects of aging.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, April 30, 2004

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