What Are Telomeres, And What Can They Tell Us About Mesothelioma?

Research focused on early detection of malignant mesothelioma tends to focus on biomarkers and genetic changes to the cells of those exposed to asbestos. The goal is to identify reliable warning signs so that, upon seeing them, physicians working with those with a known exposure to the carcinogenic material can begin treatment much earlier. A group of scientists from the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo have tested a theory about telomeres and how changes to their length may provide a valuable signal of impending malignant pleural mesothelioma, and their results are promising.

If the Japanese pathologists’ theory about telomere length is correct, it may lead to a valuable new way for oncologists to begin treatment earlier in those at risk for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Telomeres have become an area of intense interest in studies of longevity. They are microscopic caps at the end of each strand of DNA that have been compared to the protective tips at the end of our shoelaces. Just as the shoelace tips maintain our ability to easily lace up our shoes and keeps the laces intact, the telomeres protect our chromosomes.

Multiple studies have shown that telomere length is an indication of longevity: the shorter our telomeres are, the more likely we are to have a shorter lifespan: lifestyle choices an health statuses such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and poor diet have all been shown to impact and shorten telomere length. The Japanese researchers suspected that exposure to asbestos would similarly shorten the chromosome protection system, and their theory was confirmed when they analyzed telomeres of cells found in pleural effusions taken from patients suffering from a variety of lung diseases, including 12 people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.

According to lead investigator Shinsuke Aida, “These results suggest that telomere shortening and subsequent genetic instability play an important role in the development of malignant mesothelioma,” and “might be helpful for earlier detection of malignant mesothelioma.”

The earlier that a diagnosis of mesothelioma can be made, the more effective treatment can be. For information about diagnosis, prognosis and more, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at  1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our Mesothelioma.net news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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