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What makes cells stop dividing and growing

Buildup of GATA4 protein pushes cell into static state of senescence, a change linked to aging

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2:00pm, September 24, 2015

BUILDING UP  Brain cells from older people (center) contained visibly greater amounts of the protein GATA4 (red) than brain cells from younger people (left). The chart compares the presence of the protein in young (blue) and old (red) cells. GATA4 plays a key role in switching on senescence, a cellular state linked with aging disorders. 

Scientists have discovered a biochemical switch that seals a cell’s fate. 

A buildup of the protein GATA4 forces cells to enter a permanently static state known as senescence, researchers report in the Sept. 25 Science. The discovery sheds light on a complex biological process linked to aging and cancer, and may help scientists better understand and treat aging-related diseases.

Senescence — in which cells stop growing and dividing — results from serious stress and genetic damage, says study coauthor Stephen Elledge, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School. GATA4 helps turn on this response in cells. The researchers found that senescent cells contained higher levels of GATA4, and producing the protein in human connective tissue cells turned the cells senescent.

GATA4 is a new link in a biological chain of events that causes senescence, says geriatrician

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