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What are Telomeres?

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  • Written By: Ann MacDonald
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 02 July 2014
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The human body is composed, in part, of miniscule structures called chromosomes. The chromosomes contain all of the genetic information — the predetermined traits that are passed from parents to children — in our bodies. The combinations of genes, the carriers of genetic information, determine every person's sex, hair color, eye color, and other characteristics. The end of each chromosome is called a telomere.

The telomere functions as a protector to the end of the chromosome. As we grow older, cells split in order to copy themselves and preserve genetic information. This splitting of cells is called mitosis. The job of the telomere is to ensure that there is not too much genetic information lost each time mitosis occurs and a cell splits. As the cells split, the telomere shortens slightly. Some telomere is lost at each split, but it prevents the cells from replicating if a minimum amount of remaining genetic information is reached. Once cells can no longer reproduce, they die. Telomeres can also prevent chromosomes from connecting to each other. In essence, the telomeres control the process by which each cell ages. In turn, the way cells age affect the deterioration of the whole body.

Some telomere actions are controlled by an enzyme called telomerase. Enzymes are substances — usually proteins or RNA — that cause chemical reactions. Telomerase adds information to chromosomes and promotes growth and division in the cell.

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Many scientists believe that the action of telomerase in the telomeres hold the answers to some medical problems. Since there has been a large amount of telomerase detected in quickly growing cancer cells, they believe inhibiting the telomerase could inhibit the growth of cancer. In addition, cell reproduction and the behavior of telomeres in response to the presence of telomerase may be closely tied to the process of aging. Slowing the aging process at a cellular level could reduce the problems associated with growing older. Telomeres may also hold the secret to cell regrowth for treating other medical conditions.

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Discuss this Article

anon274619
Post 3

Very interesting information, but there seems to be a contradiction In the idea that telelomeres might cause cancer. The three scientists who won the Nobel Price in Medicine in 2009 were doing cancer research when they discovered the connection between telomere length and aging, which indicated that as the teleomeres shorten, we age and are then subject to diseases such as cancer.

Right now, scientists and anti-aging people are looking at lengthening teleomeres as an answer to cancer, rather than a cancer cause. I guess the final answer isn't in, but it is of interest.

Also, besides TA-65 and Product B, TS-X is a new player on the scene, having been out since February 2012.

terrymcafee
Post 2

There are now two commercially available products that appear to affect the way telomeres shorten: TA-65 made by TA Sciences and Product B made by Isagenix. Both show telomerase activation in vitro and a small study of people taking TA-65 showed a decreased proportion of the shortest telomeres in blood samples.

ivanka
Post 1

There is some indication that high level of vitamin D in the bloodstream, helps slow down shortening of telomeres, and as a result slow down aging process.

Some foods that are good sources of vitamin D are milk products fortified with D vitamin, fish, and yes egg yolk.

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