Molecular Oncology Programme

Telomeres and Telomerase Group

Group Leader:  María A. Blasco
Overview

We study the mechanisms by which tumour cells are immortal and normal cells are mortal. Immortality is one of the most universal characteristics of cancer cells. 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. 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 focuses on:
  • Generating mouse models to validate telomeres and telomerase as therapeutic targets for cancer and age-related diseases.
  • The interplay between telomeres and DNA repair pathways.
  • The role and regulation of non-coding telomeric RNAs or TERRA.
  • Testing telomerase gene therapy in ‘telomere syndromes’ and age-related diseases.
  • The role of telomerase and telomeres in adult stem cell biology and in nuclear reprogramming of differentiated cells to iPS cells.