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Dis Model Mech. 2016 Jul 1;9(7):737-48. doi: 10.1242/dmm.025130.

Telomeres in aging and disease: lessons from zebrafish.

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Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal.
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal


Age is the highest risk factor for some of the most prevalent human diseases, including cancer. Telomere shortening is thought to play a central role in the aging process in humans. The link between telomeres and aging is highlighted by the fact that genetic diseases causing telomerase deficiency are associated with premature aging and increased risk of cancer. For the last two decades, this link has been mostly investigated using mice that have long telomeres. However, zebrafish has recently emerged as a powerful and complementary model system to study telomere biology. Zebrafish possess human-like short telomeres that progressively decline with age, reaching lengths in old age that are observed when telomerase is mutated. The extensive characterization of its well-conserved molecular and cellular physiology makes this vertebrate an excellent model to unravel the underlying relationship between telomere shortening, tissue regeneration, aging and disease. In this Review, we explore the advantages of using zebrafish in telomere research and discuss the primary discoveries made in this model that have contributed to expanding our knowledge of how telomere attrition contributes to cellular senescence, organ dysfunction and disease.


Aging; Cancer; Disease; Telomerase; Telomeres; Zebrafish

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