A Potential Treatment For Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)!

Intro to IPF

The Opportunity

Background: TERC/TERT and Telomerase

TERT and TERC work hand-in-hand to aid the function of telomerase — a reverse transcriptase enzyme that lengthens the 3' end of telomeres. Telomeres are DNA-protein structures (or protective caps) located at the end of chromosomes with a DNA sequence of TTAGGG. Chromosomes are thread-like structures inside the nucleus of a cell that contain DNA and genetic information. These telomeres essentially protect the genome from inter-chromosomal fusion, nucleolytic degradation, and unneeded recombination.

The Function of TERC/TERT

The TERC gene, which is found on chromosome 3, creates instructions to make the DNA sequence of TTAGGG — used for telomerase to add to the end of telomeres. TERC produces hTR, an RNA molecule that provides the template for reverse transcription (or the creation of a DNA molecule from an RNA template).

Other Issues Related to These Mutations

A study analyzed 115 patients with TERC/TERT mutations (among others). 46% of this data set had a diagnosis for IPF. Those with TERC mutations had a higher chance of developing leukopenia (reduced white blood cells), myelodysplastic syndrome (immature blood cells fail to mature), thrombocytopenia (low platelet levels), or aplastic anemia (lack of blood cell production). Additionally, evidence for genetic anticipation was found in families with TERT mutations. This means they displayed worsening symptoms at earlier ages as the disease passed on through generations.

My Idea — How We Can Fight This Disease

Vision of the Future

Key Takeaways

  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive lung disease that causes scarring (fibrosis) to the lungs and causes death 3–5 years after diagnosis.
  • In 15% of cases (familial pulmonary fibrosis), scientists found a mutation in the TERC/TERT genes.
  • TERC/TERT work hand-in-hand with telomerase, which is an enzyme that lengthens telomeres (protective caps at the ends of chromosomes). TERC “creates” the DNA sequence, and then TERT delivers it. TERC/TERT both determine the telomere-binding ability and catalytic activity of telomerase.
  • For IPF patients with TERC mutations, they were found to have a higher risk of developing leukopenia, myelodysplastic syndrome, thrombocytopenia, or aplastic anemia.
  • In Dyskeratosis Congenita (DC), there is a similar mutation to TERC. In an experiment, scientists applied exogenous TERC to patients and saw positive results, including increased cellular lifespan and telomerase activity.
  • We can apply experiments done with dyskeratosis congenita to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and potentially see similarly positive results! This is a road that has not yet been ventured, but definitely should!

A Quick Message

Before you leave, don’t forget to check out my Linkedin! Email me at aliyao2006@gmail.com with further questions or comments — I’d love to hear from you!

Resources

Check out the resources I used throughout this article!

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Aliya Ojuade

Aliya Ojuade

longevity/vr researcher - tks innovator - students x students editor studentsxstudents.com