Key points from article :
A mechanism regulating cell survival in ageing and cancer has been discovered.
Some molecules accumulate at the tip of chromosomes and prevent damage to DNA.
A study has found how these molecules home in on specific sections of chromosomes.
Telomeres form protective caps at the ends of chromosomes but shorten as cells divide.
Telomere shortening and malfunction have been linked to cell ageing and age-related diseases.
An RNA called TERRA regulates the length and function of telomeres but how it binds to them was unknown.
Researchers found that another molecule RAD51 is crucial to bring TERRA to telomeres.
TERRA accumulates at chromosome ends, signalling that telomeres should be elongated or repaired.
"TERRA and RAD51 help to prevent accidental loss or shortening of telomeres," says Joachim Lingner,EPFL.
The mechanism was deduced from observations in living cells and reproduced in test tubes.
Study by EPFL published in Nature.