In early 2015, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine announced that they had found a way to lengthen telomeres. The length of telomeres, having 8,000 – 10, 000 nucleotides, decreases in the chromosomes of replicating cells every time they divide. In this research, the team was able to increase the length of telomeres by 1,000 nucleotides.
I know you are wondering what in the world are telomeres; how do they contribute to aging and more importantly can telomere lengthening reverse aging?
What are Telomeres?
Every cell in your body has a nucleus that carries your DNA. This DNA inside the nucleus is divided into linear chunks known as chromosomes. The end of each chromosome is sealed by a hard protective cap known as telomeres. Human cells have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each chromosome has telomeres at both ends. You can think of each chromosome as a shoe lace. The ends of each shoe lace has a protective cap that prevents it from untangling. These caps are like the telomeres at the end of our chromosomes that keeps your DNA intact.
When and Why do Telomeres Shorten?
Based on cell replication, there are two types of cells in our bodies; mitotic cells and post mitotic cells. Post mitotic cells rarely ever if never ever undergo cell division. Mitotic cells on the other hand are programmed to undergo cell division throughout your lifetime. However there is a limit in the number of times a cell can divide. A single mitotic cell can only divide up to approximately 60 times after which they die. This is known as the Hayflick limit and these cells are said to have undergone replicative senescence.
One of the reasons mitotic cells have a replication limit is because with every cell division, the telomeres in the chromosomes become shorter. By approximately the 60th division the telomeres becomes extremely short and the cell recognizes this as DNA damage. Any time the DNA in chromosomes gets damaged the cell is restricted from replicating after which it can be induced to commit suicide (apoptosis). It is then removed from the tissue.
Telomeres are a Crucial Piece Of a Puzzle
Telomere shortening is one form of cell damage that can cause a cell to undergo apoptosis. In short other than the telomeres, if any part of the DNA inside the chromosome gets damaged the cell also recognizes this as DNA damage and induces apoptosis if the damage cannot be repaired.
Damaged cells that have been removed can always be replaced using stem cells in mitotic tissues. Therefore we shouldn’t worry that a cell is eliminated if it is damaged. In fact this allows the tissue to renew itself. The problem however comes in that stem cells that are meant to replace these cells also experience telomere shortening with time.
In fact studies show that stem cells in all mitotic tissues experience telomere shortening as we age. Therefore stem cells cannot renew tissue if it’s DNA has incurred damage, where part of the damage is telomere shortenig. We will have to repair the damage first. Part of the DNA repair will be telomere lengthening.
Telomere lengthening is a piece of the aging reversal puzzle. Here the proposed method of reversing aging in mitotic tissue is: remove senescent cells from the tissue then repair the DNA in the stem cells. One aspect of DNA repair will be telomere lengthening. The stem cells will then be as good as new to generate cells that will replace the senescent cells removed. Sounds simple huh? Wait till you get to do the actual work and research. That is why we are asking our readers and supporters to donate any amount that will promote research in an effort to make this a reality.