Sunday, December 26, 2010

Longevity and You

During the holiday season, I get a chance to read books that have been sitting along the sideline, waiting to be read. One such book that I recently have been reading is titled "IMMORTALITY" by Dr. Ben Bova. One particularly subject that fascinated me was the telomere end of the DNA being linked to aging and cancer. Apparently, the telomere is like the tips of a shoe string that hold it together. Over time, when the cell divides this telomere shortens, and eventually, after so many divisions (Hayflick limit of 50 divisions), the cell senesces and dies. Apparently, the normal cells don't have telomerase, which helps keep the telomere length long. Only cancer cells seem to have plenty of the telomerase.

Fascinated by what I read in the book, I went online and found out that Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn in California received the Nobel Prize in 2009 for her work on telomere and telomerase research. Her research encompasses many different avenues of the telomere landscape, including mental health.

I also discovered more information about telomeres from the following website:

Apparently an herbal extract from the astragalus plant has been found and designed to increase telomeres and has been available for people to take since 2007. It is not FDA regulated because it is considered a nutraceutical. As of to date, there have been no side effects. I will do more research on this fascinating topic.

The problem with tampering with our body's makeup, is that a study done in Sweden found out that that some people’s telomeres get longer over time rather than shorter. Prior studies had not shown this. In the study, 959 individuals gave blood twice, 9 to 11 years apart. On average, the second samples had shorter telomeres than the first. However, a surprising find was that approximately 33% of the people had either a stable or increasing telomere length over this ten year period. It is not fully understood why this is the case. Could it be because these people have built-in cellular anti-aging mechanisms or could this be due to an early sign of cancer?
What I have learned from all this research is that aging is more complicated than simply studying the shortening of telomeres.

The other intriguing part of my online research are the telomerase inhibitors like curcumin, allicin, quercetin, resveratrol, green tea, and more. This was a surprising find, yet made sense. Since telomerase is the enzyme that helps form longer telomeres, the inhibition of this enzyme could aid in treating cancer patients. Cancer is known to have plentiful telomerase and long telemores, therefore they keep growing indefinately. Catch 22, I would say. Try and increase the telomeres to slow down aging, and at the same time, try and avoid turning the cells into cancer cells! There has to be a fine balance between the two.

Given the above conflicting points, I will continue my research on this topic. This is by no means a finished topic.

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