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Telomere enzyme a likely key to longevity

Study gives mice a longevity boost without high cancer risk

A new experiment suggests that the enzyme telomerase can extend the lifespan of mice by about 26 percent.

Some cells can keep dividing forever, essentially becoming immortal thanks in part to telomerase. But evidence for whether this enzyme affects aging and longevity in larger organisms such as people has been muddled and contradictory.

While the enzyme enables cells to keep dividing, it also takes cells one step closer to growing and proliferating out of control — that is, becoming cancerous. Lab animals with extra genes for telomerase often die young from tumors.

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