Skin Regeneration Breakthrough -
'Replicative Immortality'
Press Release
Geron Publication Describes In Vivo Results of Telomerase Activation
MENLO PARK, Calif.--(BW HealthWire)--Nov. 13, 2000--Geron Corp. (Nasdaq:GERN - news) announced the publication of research demonstrating that the telomerase gene restores the ability of aging human skin cells to form normal skin structures in a mouse model of tissue formation. Published in the journal Experimental Cell Research, the work was conducted by scientists at Geron Corporation and Stanford University.
Age-related changes in skin cells play a role in conditions such as chronic ulcers and photoaging. Skin is composed of two principal cell types: keratinocytes, which form the upper epidermal layer, and fibroblasts, which form the underlying dermal structures. These layers are connected by a tight junctional membrane. The research team discovered that fibroblasts aged in the laboratory lost the ability to form a robust junction with young human keratinocytes when the two cells were put into an animal model of tissue formation. This condition is observed in the elderly and is manifested by increased skin frailty and subepidermal blistering.
In the study, introduction of telomerase to aging fibroblasts dramatically increased their division capacity and restored their ability to reconstitute normal human skin structures in the model system. A genomics microarray analysis also showed that telomerase restored a normal pattern of expressed genes to old fibroblasts. Telomerase, therefore, not only confers replicative immortality to skin fibroblasts, but also prevents or reverses the loss of biological function associated with aging cells.
``This is the first demonstration of a beneficial effect of telomerase activation in human cells in an in vivo animal model,'' stated Calvin Harley, Ph.D., Geron's chief scientific officer. ``The research brings the company one step closer to a telomerase gene therapy for the treatment of chronic degenerative diseases in the elderly, including debilitating skin ulcers.''
The two critical genes for human telomerase activity were cloned and characterized by Geron scientists (Science 269, 1236-1241, 1995 and Science 277, 955-959, 1997). Telomerase is an enzyme that maintains telomere length in immortal cells and confers replicative immortality without malignant transformation. Generally, normal human body cells lack telomerase and lose a small amount of telomeric DNA at each cell division, until a threshold length is reached which triggers senescence and loss of function. Critical telomere loss in certain cells at sites of chronic stress in humans contributes in a fundamental way to diseases of the elderly.
``Demonstrating that telomerase restores a youthful function to aging human cells in an animal model supports our belief that this technology can be developed for regenerative medicine,'' noted Thomas Okarma, Ph.D., M.D., Geron's chief executive officer. ``We have multiple opportunities for the treatment of disease in which telomerase can be incorporated into cell and gene therapies. Chronic skin ulcers and liver diseases are two applications among others that we are actively pursuing.''
Geron is a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing therapeutic and diagnostic products for applications in oncology, research tools for drug discovery and regenerative medicine. Geron's product development programs are based upon three patented core technologies: telomerase, human pluripotent stem cells and nuclear transfer.
This news release may contain forward-looking statements made pursuant to the ``safe harbor'' provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements in this press release regarding product development and future applications of Geron's technology constitute forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, risks inherent in research and development efforts, enforcement of patents and proprietary rights, potential competition and uncertainty of regulatory approvals or clearances. Actual results may differ materially from the results anticipated in these forward-looking statements. Additional information on potential factors that could affect our results and other risks and uncertainties are detailed from time to time in Geron's periodic reports, including the quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2000.
A copy of the referenced paper can be obtained at
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