COULD artificially raising levels of a key enzyme hold back the effects of ageing? It has long been a hope but now two lab experiments - one with human cells and one in animals - are providing the first evidence that this may actually be possible.
The enzyme in question is telomerase, which is present naturally in some mammalian cells. Its function is to maintain the protective caps called telomeres at the ends of our chromosomes, which unravel with each cell division as we get older. It has been suggested that this shortening triggers some of the negative effects of ageing at a cellular level. As a result, telomerase has been hailed by some as a potential elixir of life.