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Protect Your Chromosome Telomeres Naturally by Encouraging Telomerase Production

Protect Your Chromosome Telomeres Naturally by Encouraging Telomerase Production

In October of 2009, the medical world awoke to the news that the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine had been 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.”

That this trio was being recognized for one of the most important genetic discoveries of the past half century was hardly a shock. Instead, what was surprising was the fact that it took the Nobel Committee so long to come to that conclusion.

It was back in 1982, nearly thirty five years ago, when Blackburn and Szostak first presented their findings that telomeres, the DNA “caps” on the end of chromosomes, protect cells when they divide. And it was back in 1984 that Greider and Blackburn identified telomerase, the enzyme that makes telomere DNA.

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In the time since these initial breakthrough discoveries, scientists the world over have been studying telomeres and the role they play in human aging. What they have found will soon revolutionize human health, and they have already identified steps you can take right now to take advantage of the Nobel Prize winning discovery of telomeres.

What are telomeres and why are they important?

Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of all chromosomes. They protect and separate one chromosome from another in the DNA sequence. Blackburn says telomeres effectively “cap” the end of a chromosome in a manner similar to the way the plastic on the ends of our shoelaces “caps” and protects the shoelaces from unraveling.

In humans, every cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Each chromosome contains DNA (the building block of life) along with hundreds of genes. Telomeres separate each of these chromosomes from each other.

But what is really interesting about telomeres, and the reason you should be aware of them, is that they appear to be the “clock” that regulates how many times an individual cell can divide.

What happens is this ... each time a cell divides, the telomeric sequence on each end of the chromosome in the cell gets a little bit shorter. Once the telomere shrinks to a certain level, the cell can no longer divide and the cell dies. What this means is that most cells can divide only a certain number of times, growing older each time they do so. This is human aging at the cellular level and why scientists are excited about the possibility of slowing down or even stopping the telomere shortening process.

Scientists now know that telomere length is an early indication of disease risk, progression, and premature mortality in humans.

Shortened telomeres are a precursor to the initiation of many types of diseases including cancer and coronary heart disease.1

Protecting your telomeres

Clearly, if you could stop your telomeres from shrinking after cell division, you could slow down the aging process and protect yourself from disease. The good news is there are a number of ways to do just that.

If you promote the production of telomerase, the enzyme that makes telomeres in the body, you can slow the rate of telomere degradation and even reverse it. In other words, if short telomeres are the problem, then telomerase may be one of the solutions.

In the laboratory, scientists have introduced telomerase into cells in tissue culture and extended the length of their telomeres. These cells then divided for 250 generations past the time they normally would stop dividing, and are continuing to divide normally, giving rise to normal cells with the normal number of chromosomes.2 By extending the telomeres with telomerase, the “mortal” cell has become immortal!

Now imagine if you could promote the production of telomerase in your healthy cells. You could theoretically slow down the aging process. This is something scientists are actively working on.

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Editor's Note:

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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.

References

  1. Rodier F, Kim SH, Nijjar T, et al. Cancer and aging: the importance of telomeres in genome maintenance. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2005; 37: 977–90. 

  2. “Shay/Wright Laboratory” The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. (www.swmed.edu/) 

  3. Xu Q. Parks CG. DeRoo LA. Cawthon RM. Sandler DP, Chen H. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2009: 89(6):1857-1863.

  4. Saretzki G, Von Zglinicki T. Replicative aging, telomeres, and oxidative stress. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2002 Apr: 959:24-9. 

  5. Farzaneh-Fqar R, Lin J, Epel ES, Harris WS, Blackburn EH, Whooley MA. Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary heart disease. JAMA 2010 Jan 20;303(3):250-7.

  6. Chjan R, Woo J, Suen E, Leung, Tang N. Chinese tea consumption is associated with longer telomere length in elderly Chinese men. Br. J Nutr. 2010 Jan;103(1):107-13. Epub 2009 Aug 12. 

  7. Richard JB, Valdes AM, et al. Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr: 2007 Nov;86(5):1420-5. 

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