The New Science of Aging does not include watching the biological clock tick away, and certainly doesn’t settle for the genetic hand you were dealt. Science has now pinpointed a tool to track both the aging and health status of our bodies beyond the routine blood work and family history. This technique, known as telomere testing, provides a snapshot of our cumulative heath on a cellular level. We are weeks away from offering this test to the public. Subscribe to our Telomere Health Updates to be notified. ??
How to Unlock the Aging Process Between Our Cells and Our Selves
The aging of our cells does not always match the chronological aging of our selves. A telomere test is not only a measure of cell “aging”, but provides a measure of health, disease risk, and the potential of the body to respond to drugs. Telomeres are the protective “caps” on our chromosomes AND the only modifiable part of our genetics.
In addition to normal shortening as we age, telomeres can be worn down through an unhealthy lifestyle. Short telomeres have now been linked to a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and a lower intake of certain nutrients (e.g., antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids). Furthermore, accelerated cell aging has now been found in many conditions of stress, including trauma exposure and major depression.
Sagging Jowls, Wrinkled Skin, and Gray Hair
Once a cell has divided to the point where its telomeres have been worn to a nub, the cell dies. This process emits all kinds of pro-inflammatory substances into the tissues and bloodstream. Some scientists believe that it is those toxins that chew away at the collagen and elastin — protein fibers that hold together our organs, including our skin — leading to the physical markers of aging that we witness in the mirror.
The Really Good News
The “old” science of aging suggested that telomeres decline with age— end of story, however recent studies have now shown that telomere length can actually increase in humans. Unlike the rest of our DNA, research has shown that telomeres can lengthen over time through such lifestyle changes as biofeedback stress reduction, a specific kind of exercise, meditation, reduction of belly fat, increases in certain supplements, and other interventions.
In November 2010, a group of Harvard University researchers turned on the telomerase gene of prematurely aging mice. They encountered shocking results. For the first time ever, an aged state of an animal was reversed and the mice became young again. In a human study, Blackburn and Epel reported that “lifestyle changes can significantly increase telomerase activity and consequently telomere maintenance capacity in human immune-system cells.” The most amazing conclusion to the human study was the results were seen in just 90 days!!!!
Over 4,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications relate to telomere biology and aging or disease. These studies demonstrate the value of these “telomere tests” to monitor health status, future disease risk, and even drug response. According to Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, “Telomere length is the one number that captures a multitude of physiological influences.” In other words, it provides an ongoing virtual aging report card that reflects the effectiveness of your current lifestyle choices on you’re overall health, allowing you to adjust for any potential future risks. Sign in to Telomere Updates and we will notify you when the test becomes available. If you are interested in being part of a research study please let us know.
The Main Characters in the Telomere Story
Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn – the queen of telomere biology, originally described the molecular telomere structure. She then discovered telomerase, the enzyme that increases telomere length and has other important functions promoting cell health. Blackburn received the 2009 Nobel Prize for “the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.” Blackburn has continued to be a leader in advancing the science and training other scientists as well about this aging system.
Elissa Epel, PhD – a leader in the field of health psychology and behavioral medicine, pioneered research linking stress to immune cell aging. With Blackburn she showed that stress perceptions, as well as actual stressful events or thoughts, are associated with shorter telomeres and reduced telomerase activity. In plain words, she proved that stress ages you at a cellular level.
Calvin Harley Ph.D. in 1990 showed that in human cells, telomeres shorten progressively over time. He was instrumental in demonstrating that telomere shortening is a cause for cellular aging and that telomerase (the enzyme) can prevent this action. Telomeres are now considered a “timer” on a cell’s life.
These leaders in research have teamed up as Telome Health with a mission of – “a commitment to a deeper understanding of telomere science and its implications and applications to improve the health of people worldwide.”