Fountain of youth or fountain of death, my experiences with telomerase activation
Telomere: a chunk of repeating DNA at the end of all chromosomes, tied directly to cell health and cell lifespan. It shortens with age and many stresses including sleep deprivation, emotional stress, physical inactivity, diseases and poor dietary choices.
Telomerase: (short for telomere reverse transcriptase) the enzyme that lengthens the telomere, highly active in only a few types of cells.
As an expert in the clinical application of telomere biology, I get a lot of question from people asking if telomeres and telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens them, are really the cure for aging or a potential cause for cancer.
The story goes like this. The telomere is a biologic time clock. The “pop culture” application of this and the one we use in our book, “The Immortality Edge”, states that you can live to 120 years because of telomere length but not much longer. We took some license and called this the Hayflick limit as others before us have, even though this is not really what Dr Hayflick discovered or said. The bottom line is that it seems to have stuck and a lot of people say that the Hayflick limit is the reason we can only live to 120 years. This limit is directly related to the length of the telomere as we now know.
So there you have it; a simple, easy- to-understand mechanism of why cells can only divide so many times before they die. Every time the cell reproduces, it is one step closer to death and the telomeres are keeping track of the whole process in a sense. Once they get used up and become short, the cell stops dividing and dies. And in recent years, the pathways that lead to cell death through aging and disease have been mapped out and ultimately end up shortening the telomere.
The neat thing is that the “telomere theory of aging” includes and helps explain many of the other theories like wear and tear, free radical oxidative damage, the mitochondria theory of aging and many others. As a result, we know that all of the things we identify as “unhealthy” including diseases like heart disease and diabetes and conditions like being fat, shorten the telomeres and thus shorten our lives.
So what if you can lengthen the telomere or at least slow down the loss?
Well that is the topic of our book, “The Immortality Edge”. I, along with two other well know anti-aging experts, Dr Mike Fossel and Greta Blackburn, collaborated to create an “everyman’s guide” to keeping those telomeres long. Now most people want to live longer AND a lot healthier, and the book is written with that in mind.
Areas of huge interest are drugs and supplements.
Right now the supplement that lengthens telomeres in live free-living humans, TA-65, is very expensive and not likely to come down in price soon. Other supplements are often claimed to “turn on telomerase” but when tested in human cell lines at doses that a person could actually take do not work very well or at all.
In addition no other supplement besides TA-65 has human data and this is not likely to change even as people rush new supplements to the market in response to our book and the amazing new findings in telomere biology.
I have personally verified supplements that work and do not work at a world renowned lab that does nothing but test for telomerase activity. That lab is Sierra Sciences and is run by Dr William Andrews, a friend of mine and the man who discovered the human telomerase gene. Dr Andrews is responsible for much of what the world knows about telomeres and telomerase. He is one of the truly amazing researchers in the field and, in my opinion, deserves far more recognition and support than he has gotten for his advances in medicine and of course telomerase biology.
Resveratrol is an example of where much confusion exists. It is listed as both telomerase activator and telomerase inhibitor. Indeed before both properties were evaluated by Sierra Sciences, the lab that does nothing but test for telomerase. Citations and articles appeared demonstrating both activities which is pretty much impossible. Their results with resveratrol and ones that I trust implicitly show no activity of commercial brands either way.
There are supplements that turn on telomerase or preserve telomere length by other means with enough power to preserve telomere length, but slowing down the shortening is very different than adding length. TA-65 has been proven to add telomere length in real live human beings.
I mentioned TA-65 was expensive but many people who could afford TA-65 are holding back to see if the concept is real or if there are any side effects.
Is it real? In the past week an article was released that got a lot of attention. A researcher named Dr DePinho used the telomerase enzyme to make lab mice young again. At least some of the scientific community reacted with astonishment. While this is an exciting study and certainly appreciated for its contribution, those of us who have been in the field for years are not at all surprised.
This is not the first experiment of its kind.
Almost a decade ago a fellow named Walter Funk, who worked with Dr Andrews, grafted old human skin onto mice and then turned on telomerase. The skin assumed the characteristics of young skin. Few noticed Funk’s experiment-- probably because it was “too far ahead of its time”. Last year a human population was discovered with “more active” telomerase. Telomerase is not active in most of us and that is why we age for the most part. The people who had this more active telomerase lived longer and were healthier as a whole. As a matter of fact, the study was done in people over 100 years old.
While I do not discount the importance of studies in genetically altered mice, the people who are taking TA-65 and /or supplements that slow down telomere erosion are doing what amounts to the best kind of experiment -- one done in free-living humans. A study was published earlier this year in Rejuvenation Research detailing the extreme safety of TA-65 and the objective benefits.
Literally every week a new study comes out in humans, linking disease states to shorter telomeres including, of course, cancer. In addition, the converse is true; longer telomeres correlate with less disease, longer life and better health.
In what I consider to be the research development of the year, Dr Mike West and colleagues (including Walter Funk and Bill Andrews), essentially took differentiated somatic cells typical of aging adults and created the equivalent of an embryonic stem cell line, which restored telomerase activity in those adult-derived cells to a very early stage.
Simply put, they were able to generate very young cells from very old ones. In the process, the ethical problems with embryonic stem cells were completely removed. Because of this, in the not too distant future, you will be able to supply a small amount of your own adult cells from pretty much anywhere on your body and create an embryonic stem cell line with very active “youthful” levels of telomerase and use them to fix what ails you with no compatibility issues, since they are “yours” anyway, and no ethical issues since you donated them to yourself.
If that is not a huge step to curing aging and the diseases associated with it, I don’t know what is.
Another question is cancer. Much of the original work on telomerase was done on cancer since this enzyme, telomerase, is active in 85% of human cancers and confers “immortality” to them. No telomerase, no immortal cancer cell lines. So scientists continue to try to develop inhibitors to slow down or even help cure cancer.
So turning on telomerase must give you cancer, right!?
Wrong. Every study, including the ones done in humans, has shown no increase in cancer in people who are either taking a telomerase activator (TA-65) or have the genetics for active telomerase (very rare!).
The longevity supplements that turn on telomerase are and will be far more “natural” to the way it is turned on in our stem cells and our germ cells, two lines where we already have active telomerase enzymes. This is quite different from the way it is turned on in cancer.
Personally, I have no question that telomerase activation is the beginning of the possibility of slowing down or even reversing aging IN HUMANS and I have been on TA-65 for some time now, as well as a bunch of other supplements we talk about in the book.
TA-65 has been tested at Sierra Sciences to doses that far exceed anything a person could realistically take and there is no evidence of any toxicity of any kind.
Besides me, all of my immediate family is on the telomerase activator as well as the supplements we know to support the telomere. I want my loved ones to live long and be healthy, and I would never give them anything that would harm them.
The bottom line is this: the first real bridge to a longer health span and longer life span for PEOPLE is here right now and it’s the topic of our book, “The Immortality Edge”. If you want to live longer and healthier for real, this is a great place to start.
I will continue to update you on my experiences and findings.
About the author
Dr. Dave is a Board Certified Internist and Board Certified anti-aging physician. He owns and operates his own supplement company, Dr Dave's Best, dedicated to true anti-aging and performance enhancing supplements.
Dr. Dave still writes his own material and does not use copywriting teams for his newsletters, blogs, etc. His motto is “Use Mother Nature to Beat Father Time!”
He is also co-author of "The Immortality Edge" a book dedicated to teaching everyone about the newest hottest field in anti-aging technology, Telomere Biology and giving practical proven advice for better health and a longer life that everyone can use RIGHT NOW!