The key to healthy longer life: Telomere

By Floro Mercene

Scientists knew a lot about telomeres, and they continue to find new evidence about the role telomeres play in the aging process on a cellular level. The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine was awarded jointly to three genetic researchers 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 telomere is a region of DNA at the end of the chromosome that doesn’t contain genetic information. It seems to be there to protect the genetic material in the chromosome during the process of cell replication. Some scientists compare them to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces that keep laces held together. Telomeres keep the chromosomes from fraying or tangling together, which can lead to a variety of health issues. Without protection from telomeres, our cells age and die. If we lose telomeres prematurely we will age prematurely.

There are more than 37 trillion cells in our body. The cells are constantly dividing, regenerating, and dying, but each time a cell replicates, telomeres get a little bit shorter. Eventually, the telomeres get too short to actually split. When telomeres get too short, our cells can no longer reproduce, which causes our tissues to degenerate and eventually die. Therefore, telomeres act as the aging clock in every cell.

Scientists have discovered that several different factors are associated with telomere length, which include lifestyle choices like diet, sleep, exercise, and also your genes.

Short telomeres are one reason human ages, but certain behaviors tend to shorten your telomeres. Nobel-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Elissa Epel call it the telomere effect and recently wrote a book explaining their research and findings. One of those, Blackburn and Epel say, are your thought patterns.

(To be continued)