Scientists are researching the so-called telomeres, which serve as the protective cap on our chromosomes. Chromosomes are the carriers of inherited traits and DNA. Unfortunately, telomeres shorten with each cell division. Telomere lengths reveal the age of chromosomes. Scientists have discovered that people with a single genetic disorder have shorter telomeres and look biologically older. There are indications that the risk of heart disease or cancer depends much more on the age of the chromosomes than on the actual age of the people.
What are telomeres?
Telomeres are short repetitive DNA sequences located at the ends of chromosomes. They consist of TTAGGG base sequences repeated up to several thousand times. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes, we could say as their protective caps. Telomeres protect chromosomes and the inherited traits housed in them. As our telomeres shorten, so do our chromosomes (in which our genetic material is written) decay i.e. age. So, the faster telomeres shorten, the faster the chromosomes, i.e., our cells, enter the aging process.
Cell aging is also written in genes. Thus, specific genes affect the intensity, i.e., the speed of cell aging. The faster our cells age, the faster our body ages, and we enter a process of developing certain diseases. Someone ages faster than others, which is genetically determined.
Certain cells such as gametes, embryonic stem cells, and bone marrow cells naturally contain the active enzyme telomerase, which, after doubling DNA, prolongs telomeres and prevents cell aging. Unfortunately, this enzyme is also involved in malignant cells, while it is blocked in other body cells. If telomerase is activated in the body’s cells, the nucleus sends signals to the rest of the cell, and it begins to divide again. Reactivation of telomerase allows for prolonged life of the cell and, thus, the tissue.
Telomeres and aging
Telomeres are important in the aging process. Whenever a cell divides, the telomeres become a little shorter until they become so small that the cell can no longer divide. Then the cell ages or dies. The shorter the telomeres, the more likely DNA cells will be damaged. Protecting telomeres can extend cell life. Telomere length, however, affects the fact that we lead a healthy life for as long as possible. The shorter the telomeres, the more susceptible we are to diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and other conditions caused by aging.
Short telomere syndrome
Short telomere syndrome is accelerated aging caused by gene mutation where the telomere length is decreased. Other organs that may be impacted include the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, skin, and bone marrow. Short telomere syndrome is a widespread multisystem disorder that organs with increased cells can be different too. The telomers in these patients are short and typically, this condition is inherited. Some family members have grey hair at the age of 30 or cryptogenic cirrhosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, etc.
Telomerase and cancer
Telomeres tend to divide with every cell division, becoming shorter and shorter. When they reach the maximum short length, they are in the cellular senescence phase and will be rid of the body. As we age, fewer healthy cells will divide, leading to poor tissue and organ function. However, the cells can divide indefinitely because they act as protectors against cancer. Cancer cells can divide many more times than regular cells. Although the activation of the telomerase can help in anti-aging, the cancer cells activate telomerase to prevent the telomeres from getting shorter and causing cell death. Interestingly, cancer cells have this enzyme in an active state most of the time, which leads scientists to doubt using telomerase activators in clinical practice. The research found that telomerase is found in 90% of cancer patients.
Mechanism of action of telomeres on longevity
Тhe longer the telomeres, the longer the lifespan. Telomere length determines a person’s biological age. Scientists have discovered that the cell stops dividing at the moment when the length of at least one telomere reaches an extremely short length. Nature created everything smart: to preserve our genome and prevent possible mutations, the cell stops dividing exactly when the protection is over. At the same time, the condition of telomeres determines the lifespan of a cell and the condition of organs, systems, and the organism as a whole. People with short telomeres get tired quickly, lose vitality, develop wrinkles early, often have colds, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diseases of the reproductive system, organs of vision, and other age-related diseases.
How to lengthen telomeres
There are two ways we can affect telomere length. First, reduce things that shorten them and increase those that positively affect them. For example, a terrible effect on telomere length is smoking, stress, toxic substances from the environment, sedentary lifestyles, and an unhealthy diet. All of this contributes to the cells dividing much faster and more often. Each division shortens telomeres, and cells age faster.
Both physical and mental factors have a positive effect on telomeres. Here are the most important ones:
- The everyday movement has proven to be a very effective way to protect telomeres;
- A healthy diet has a positive effect, such as a lot of fruits and vegetables, seafood, omega-3, etc.;
- A lifestyle without stress and a more positive attitude are also excellent. Suppression of feelings and pessimism towards others have a very bad effect on telomeres;
- Various relaxation techniques can activate telomeres. This triggers an enzyme that stores hereditary material on the genome. Thus, cells can proliferate virtually indefinitely, as it dramatically slows down and prevents telomere shortening.
Best supplements to lengthen telomeres
Certain supplements will lengthen telomeres. Some of them are:
B vitamins play an integral part in a healthy organism and impact our energy levels, brain function, and cellular metabolism. Together with vitamin B12, Folic acid takes place in many bodily processes and is crucial for cell division because it is necessary for DNA synthesis. Without folic acid, the cells will not divide properly. In addition, homocysteine is a molecule that causes cardiovascular disease and other age-related diseases at high levels. B vitamins regulate homocysteine levels in the body. People with low B vitamin levels have shorter telomeres; that’s why taking B vitamins supplementation will keep your telomeres longer.
There are recent findings that vitamin D lengthens telomeres. For example, people with kidney failure had lower vitamin D levels and shorter telomeres. When treated with vitamin D, it showed to lengthen telomeres compared to untreated healthy controls.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E
Vitamin C has been studied to preserve the cells from aging, maintaining the telomeres from shortening. Vitamin E powder is a potent antioxidant, which keeps age-related conditions and age-related telomeres shortening.
In one research, fish oil was the perfect supplement to lengthen telomeres. Increasing omega-3 from fish oil and reducing omega-6 plasma levels increased telomere length.
TA-65 is a compound containing bioenhanced astragalus extract. The active ingredient in TA-65 is Cycloastragenol, a molecule found in the plant known as Astragalus membranaceous. Astragulus extract is native to China and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. This research has shown that TA-65 can help support healthy cell function and telomere length. In addition, TA-65 has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated in human studies. These studies have demonstrated that TA-65 is an effective compound supporting cellular health and longevity. Telomerase is responsible for maintaining the length of telomeres, the protective structures at the ends of chromosomes. In cells that express telomerase, TA-65 has been shown to increase telomere length and promote longevity. TA-65 has also been shown to positively affect age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
NAD precursors are substances that the body can use to create NAD. NAD powder is a coenzyme that plays an important role in many cellular processes, including energy production, DNA repair, and gene expression. NAD levels decline with age, and this has been linked to a number of age-related diseases. Some researchers believe that boosting NAD levels could help to slow aging and improve health. One way to boost NAD levels is to take NAD precursors. These substances are converted into NAD in the body, raising NAD levels and potentially providing a range of health benefits. NAD also affects telomere length. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes, and they shorten as cells divide. This shortening has been linked to aging, as it leads to cell death and tissue deterioration. However, recent research has found that NAD can help to maintain telomere length and protect cells from age-related damage. This suggests that NAD precursors may not only help to boost NAD levels, but also protect against aging by maintaining telomere length.
NMN powder is a nucleotide that is found in all living cells. It is a key component of energy production, cell repair, and DNA synthesis. NMN has been shown to increase the length of telomeres, which are sections of DNA that play a role in aging. Telomeres shorten as we age, and this process is linked to the development of age-related diseases. NMN has the potential to slow down the aging process by lengthening telomeres. In one study, NMN was administered to mice for eight weeks. The mice showed increased telomere length and improved longevity. These results suggest that NMN could be used to improve health and extend life span in humans.
- Do telomeres shorten with age?
Telomeres do shorten with age. At birth, the length is maximum, and as we age, the length of the telomeres shortens, which leads to chronological age. As we age, so do the old cells that are part of our genetic code.
- How long do telomeres last?
Cell division slows down and sometimes stops entirely. The telomeres at the ends of the chromosomes are probably responsible for this. When these telomeres shorten in constant cell division, the division stops, and the cell dies, leading to disease.
- How is the aging process linked to telomeres?
The cells divide constantly, and with each cell division, the telomeres shorten. Cell division is happening all the time throughout our lives, and the telomeres shorten every time. As we age, the telomeres are too short to do their job, which leads our cells to age and stop functioning as they should.
- Does telomerase form phosphodiester bonds?
Telomerase is the responsible enzyme for making DNA from an RNA template. It doesn’t form phosphodiester bonds because it attaches to the 3′ ends on the end of the chromosome. A phosphodiester bond is formed when one carbon atom of the 3′ end of one molecule is attached to another molecule’s 5′ carbon atom.
- Shammas, M. A. (2011). Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging. In Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care (Vol. 14, Issue 1, pp. 28–34). Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health). https://doi.org/10.1097/mco.0b013e32834121b1
- Vaiserman, A., & Krasnienkov, D. (2021). Telomere Length as a Marker of Biological Age: State-of-the-Art, Open Issues, and Future Perspectives. In Frontiers in Genetics (Vol. 11). Frontiers Media SA. https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2020.630186
- Mangaonkar, A. A., & Patnaik, M. M. (2018). Short Telomere Syndromes in Clinical Practice: Bridging Bench and Bedside. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 93, Issue 7, pp. 904–916). Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.03.020