Cellular Senescence
Cellular Senescence

Cellular Senescence

Most human cells can only reproduce a limited number of times in laboratory cultures before they lose the ability to divide. Known as replicative senescence, this characteristic of cells is thought to provide a safeguard against cancer. Unfortunately, as lifespan increases (as it has done in humans), the benefits of senescence can be overshadowed by its consequences. Those consequences are most closely associated with senescent cells themselves, which are compromised biologically compared to normal, non-senescent cells.


Scientists are working hard to understand this apparent paradox. Some are studying the role of telomeres, which are caps on the ends of chromosomes that get shorter each time a cell divides. Others are studying the role of specific genes, such as p16INK4a. And still others are investigating how senescence limits stem cell proliferation.


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