When you’re born, you need to develop more cells to continue to grow, some of which are for new bone, blood and skin, for example. After you are all grown up, you’re still producing new cells, like the cells that line your intestines, or maintain your skin. Every cell that reproduces needs telomeres, which keep you from losing genetic material contained within your DNA strands, during cell division.
These telomeres “cap” the ends of the chromosomes, so they don’t break. When chromosomes are broken, you’ve got problems. Cells die (scenescence), or blow up (apoptosis), possibly damaging or destroying neighboring cells, then are never heard from again.
You can lose this “cap” function, if the telomere protein is mutated, missing or the telomere is too short. These tiny, genetic, biological clocks tend to shorten as you age, so your cell replication doesn’t copy chromosome ends completely.
The good news is, researchers are better able to understand and manage the aging process and combat chronic diseases by introducing telomerase, an enzyme that creates a favorable environment for longer telomeres. Scientists have even genetically designed a lab mouse that has defective telomerase, to help demonstrate the role this powerful enzyme plays in the aging process. Of course, they’ll tell you they need to continue to explore the field of telomere biology, but the data is in.
Lab experiments show that most human cells can divide only 30 to 80 times before they die. Aging cells undergo even fewer replications before they scenes. So, preserving your telomere length is a critical strategy for continuing vitality, as the clock ticks on.
How do you go about preserving telomere length?
Well, there are whole books written on this subject, but the macro view is:
Telomere science is a relatively new and fascinating field. Surely, you’ll see a lot more research and new studies on this subject. As scientists unlock more secrets of anti-aging, preserve your telomeres now, so you’ll be able to reap the benefits.