Telomeres explained

By | May 11, 2008

Telomeres may hold the key to exciting future anti aging advances. Telomeres are strands or sequences of DNA attached to the ends of chromosomes. They have a very important role in cellular health. Every time your cells divide (and cells reproduce by dividing), the telomeres that are attached on the ends of the chromosomes get shorter (and shorter). In other words, telomeres may hold the key to cell lifespan.

The whole purpose of telomeres is to provide a buffer for the cells during replication, because cells cannot divide the chromosome part all the way to the end, and so use up the telomere instead as fodder to stand in for the chromosome. As the telomere gets shorter, and shorter, so the cell’s ability to divide also gets less and less – finally leading to the death of the cell (apoptosis).

In cancer, the process of telomere shortening is conspicuously missing, and that is why the cells continue to divide themselves with no brakes in place. In fact, telomere research holds very promising potential to learn how to control the spread of cancer cells. Most research is focused on the enzyme telomerase, which is an enzyme produced by cancer cells, and also germ cells.

dna.jpgTelomerase is never found in healthy cells. What telomerase does, is it repairs the telomeres, seemingly preserving them at all times. In cancer research, scientists are working on a telomerase inhibitor that will cause the telomeres to be mortal again, and thus once again limiting the endless replication of the cells, which characterize cancer.

But in anti aging research, we want telomeres to last longer, simply because our cells get to live longer – when the telomeres live longer. It boils down to how we control the telomeres if we are to prevent a digression into a cancer-like stage, while at the same time, bolstering our lifespan, by helping our cells to live longer. Can this be done? This is but one of the key questions in telomere research.

Although things are never really as clear cut as we would want, telomeres have important roles to play in anti aging. It is clear that shortened telomeres lead to a multitude of aging diseases, and therefore, keeping the telomeres intact for as long as possible, while preventing cancer from happening – is the challenge. Among other things, it was found that weight gain and increased insulin resistance were some of the manifested results of increasing telomere shortening, over time.

I believe telomere research may hold the key to increased lifespan and better health.