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The molecular caps at the ends of chromosomes that protect humans against cancer and premature cellular aging show a surprising inability to protect themselves against ultraviolet radiation, a new Yale School of Medicine study has found.
Telomeres—the repeat sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that act like plastic tips at the end of a shoelace—are much more likely to be damaged by UV radiation than are other common cellular structures, researchers report in the study published online April 29 in the journal PLoS Genetics.
“This damage is not repaired. It is as if the cell has decided to defer maintenance to the telomeres,” said Douglas Brash, professor of therapeutic radiology, genetics and dermatology, a researcher for the Yale Cancer Center, and senior author of the study.