Telomeres and Telomerase Group, Molecular Oncology Program, Spanish National Cancer Centre (CNIO), 28029 Madrid, Spain.
Telomere length and telomerase activity are important factors in the pathobiology of human disease. Age-related diseases and premature ageing syndromes are characterized by short telomeres, which can compromise cell viability, whereas tumour cells can prevent telomere loss by aberrantly upregulating telomerase. Altered functioning of both telomerase and telomere-interacting proteins is present in some human premature ageing syndromes and in cancer, and recent findings indicate that alterations that affect telomeres at the level of chromatin structure might also have a role in human disease. These findings have inspired a number of potential therapeutic strategies that are based on telomerase and telomeres.