Telomere DNA Protects the Chromosomes
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009 was awarded jointly to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.
The award recognizes the discovery of a fundamental mechanism that has added a new dimension to our understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and stimulated the development of potential new therapies.
Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of our DNA that protect our chromosomes, and our cells, from aging. Telomeres naturally wear down over time – each time a cell divides, telomeres shorten, and get shorter and shorter until they can no longer protect the cell, at which time the cell either stops growing or dies in a process called apoptosis, or cellular suicide.
Why Telomeres are Important
Short telomere length has been proposed as a candidate biomarker of aging and correlates with age-related diseases and many risk factors including:
- Acceleration of aging caused by a low level of stem cells
- Weakness of the immune system
- Slow recovery from disease
- High risk of cancer
- High risk of cardiovascular disease
- High risk of age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia
The longer your telomere length, the slower the aging process and the lower the risk of developing many debilitating diseases.
What You Can Do to Reduce the Rate of Telomere Loss?
A diet with a large amount and variety of antioxidants will reduce oxidative stress and slow telomere shortening. This includes uncooked fruits and vegetables, omega-3 and cold-water fish, combined with caloric restriction and an exercise program.
How You Can Lengthen and Protect Your Telomeres
Therapies are being developed to rejuvenate telomeres. These begin by measuring telomere length before and during the program to determine whether these therapies are effectively improving telomere length. Comparing individual telomere length against age norms indicates the true age of cells, providing an accurate measurement of the rate at which your body is aging. Now, with advances in medical technology, telomere length can be measured with a blood sample.
Once your telomere length is determined, a personalized preventative protocol will be suggested by our interdisciplinary team.