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Aging Cells Lose Their Grip on DNA Rogues

January 30, 2013
A younger cell’s game

Cells control harmful transposons in DNA by wrapping them tightly around nucleosomes and packing them into chromatin fibers. The ability to maintain control of harmful transposons diminishes as cells age. Credit: Darryl Leja/National Human Genome Research Institute

Graduate students Steven Criscione and Edward Peckham and postdoctoral researcher Marco De Cecco are working alongside others at Brown to discover how parasitic strands of genetic material called transposable elements attack chromosomes and how cells lose the ability as they age to defend against these attacks. De Cecco is the lead author of a study a with professor John Sedivy of the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry.

Even in our DNA there is no refuge from rogues that prey on the elderly. The transposable elements — transposons — lurk in our chromosomes, poised to wreak genomic havoc. Cells have evolved ways to defend themselves, but  cells lose this ability as they age, possibly resulting in a decline in their function and health. Read more of David Orenstein's article on aging cells.