Scientific Programmes

Molecular Oncology Programme

Telomeres and Telomerase Group

Group Leader:  María A. Blasco

We study the mechanisms by which tumour cells are immortal and normal cells are mortal. The immortality of cancer cells is one of their most universal characteristics. The enzyme telomerase is present in more than 95% of all types of human cancers and absent in normal cells in the body. Telomeres are nucleoprotein complexes located at the ends of chromosomes, essential for chromosome protection and genomic stability. The progressive shortening of telomeres associated with organism ageing leads to ageing. When telomeres are altered, adult stem cells have a maimed regenerative capacity.

Our research aims are:

  • Generating mouse models to validate telomeres and telomerase as therapeutic targets for cancer and age-related diseases.
  • Deciphering the interplay between telomeres and DNA repair pathways.
  • Studying the role and regulation of non-coding telomeric RNAs or TERRA.
  • Testing telomerase gene therapy in ’telomere syndromes’ and age-related diseases.
  • Elucidating the role of telomerase and telomeres in adult stem cell biology and in nuclear reprogramming of differentiated cells to iPS cells.