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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Apr;1792(4):371-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2009.01.010. Epub 2009 Feb 7.

Dyskeratosis congenita, stem cells and telomeres.

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Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, UK.


Dyskeratosis congenita (DC) is a multi-system disorder which in its classical form is characterised by abnormalities of the skin, nails and mucous membranes. In approximately 80% of cases, it is associated with bone marrow dysfunction. A variety of other abnormalities (including bone, brain, cancer, dental, eye, gastrointestinal, immunological and lung) have also been reported. Although first described almost a century ago it is the last 10 years, following the identification of the first DC gene (DKC1) in 1998, in which there has been rapid progress in its understanding. Six genes have been identified, defects in which cause different genetic subtypes (X-linked recessive, autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive) of DC. The products of these genes encode components that are critical for telomere maintenance; either because they are core constituents of telomerase (dyskerin, TERC, TERT, NOP10 and NHP2) or are part of the shelterin complex that protects the telomeric end (TIN2). These advances have also highlighted the connection between the more "cryptic/atypical" forms of the disease including aplastic anaemia and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Equally, studies on this disease have demonstrated the critical importance of telomeres in human cells (including stem cells) and the severe consequences of their dysfunction. In this context DC and related diseases can now be regarded as disorders of "telomere and stem cell dysfunction".

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