Research NewsGenetics

Premature Aging Gene Discovered

Science  12 Apr 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5259, pp. 193-194
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5259.193

Summary

Patients who have the rare hereditary condition known as Werner's syndrome begin aging dramatically while still in their twenties. Their hair goes gray, their skin loses its suppleness, and worse, they also develop cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases that usually don't strike until later in life. On page 258 of this issue, researchers now report that they have identified the gene at fault in Werner's syndrome, which apparently encodes a DNA-unwinding enzyme called a helicase. This suggests that the premature aging, cancer, and other problems associated with the syndrome may be due to failure of normal DNA repair, replication, or one of the other DNA activities that require a helicase.