Telomeres, the Big Boss of Aging?
Telomere: Part of our genetic material that acts as a biologic fuse or time clock telling us how much life is left in our cells. The older we get, the shorter our telomeres get and the older and sicker our cells behave. The older and sicker our cells behave, the older and sicker we become!
DNA: our genetic material located inside the nucleus of the cell. It contains our genes inherited from mom and dad.
Mitochondria: little powerhouses that live inside the cell, needed to burn fat and oxygen to make energy, often thought to be the central source of the aging process.
I have written a lot about telomeres lately, concomitant with our book, The Immortality Edge. If you are new to my writings, please search this site for my articles on telomeres (or just click here for a list of my articles) and read them. I have answered every question anyone has asked so far on those posts. To those of you who have read them: Thanks for your continued input and support and interest in longevity and health!
Gigantic leaps and bounds in understanding the why and how we age are being made every single day. With each step we take we get much closer to not only understanding aging, but stopping it.
In the past I upset some people by saying the words “cure aging”.
People have been saying that making aging a disease is the next big money making scheme, we are fooling with Mother Nature, and aging is natural and impossible to change and so forth.
I can understand these views since up until now 1) We didn’t understand aging, 2) We had no way of knowing if we were doing anything good to slow it down or stop it, and 3) For centuries thousands of people before us had tried, failed and were labeled quacks and snake oil salesmen and worse!, 4) We counted on traditional medicine and we were taught to believe in individual diseases. Aging was not one of them and even Big Pharma and traditional medical doctors abandoned all efforts to develop an anti-aging pill/therapies because nothing seemed to work.
Every single one of those things that WAS true in the past is not true anymore. Our understanding of the telomere has changed all of that and in the process has changed the way we look at aging.
I am a traditional medical doctor. I hold Board Certifications in Internal Medicine and Anti-Aging Medicine. And I think aging IS a disease that can be cured. In medicine we refer to “signs and symptoms” as things that point us to the correct diagnosis. I think heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cancer and most other diseases we associate with getting older are actually signs of the disease called aging.
I think forgetfulness, loss of energy, loss of sex drive, loss of muscle mass and gain of fat are all symptoms of the disease I call aging. And at the center of all this is the telomere: “the big boss” of aging.
As the big boss, what happens to the telomere explains many other theories of aging. Some of these theories you may have heard of before: wear and tear, somatic theory, antioxidant theory, and mitochondrial theory of aging to name a few. The telomere theory of aging unifies all of them.
Here is the latest example.
Last year a scientist named Passos wrote a game changing paper showing how telomere length affected a key protein in the cell called p53, which in turn caused a series of changes in organelles (mini organs!) inside the cell, known as mitochondria. The mitochondria are the powerhouses, generators or furnaces of the cell, burning fat and oxygen to make a large part of the energy we need to run our bodies.
But like any powerhouse or furnace they can go on “overload”, melt down and literally cause the cell to explode via this p53 activated “death pathway”. In less dramatic fashion the mitochondria can leak toxic chemicals (free radicals from leaky mitochondrial walls) into the rest of the cell and cause a “slow death.”
Dr Passos outlined the exact way this happens and made everyone realize that damage to our genetic material (BOTH DNA breaks and short telomeres) can cause cells to die this way via p53. But DNA breaks are common and the cell can often repair them good as new. This avoids the p53 death pathway. Short or broken telomeres (as happen in aging) require the enzyme telomerase to fix them, and this enzyme is effectively “turned off” in almost all human cells. Since it can’t be repaired the telomere keeps getting shorter and eventually causes the cell to die a slow death or explode via the p53 death pathway.
For most people this was pretty powerful but not everyone was convinced that telomeres deserved the starring role in the aging process. Some people thought the mitochondria caused the telomeres to shorten instead of vice versa.
Last week another group of scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute showed that short telomeres are the cause of things that happen inside the mitochondria like mutations in their DNA (mitochondrial DNA is totally separate from regular cellular DNA). They also established a direct link between the telomere and all the major functions of the mitochondria cellular powerhouses.
What did they find? Short telomeres lead to fewer and sicker powerhouses. They affect the way mitochondria use oxygen and sugar. They also affect how many mitochondria are there are in total. Dr Passos and the researchers from the Dana-Farber Institute both found that cell death is often orchestrated by massive leakage of free radicals from the mitochondria, which is controlled by telomere length. Thus the telomere seems to be a master director of the mitochondrial cellular powerhouses, not the other way around.
Now add this to what we already knew: long and healthy telomeres were needed for the health of our DNA. They keep our DNA from “unraveling”.
And in case you forgot, there was the recent JAMA article that showed the shorter your telomeres the more likely you are to get cancer (human study), plus just three weeks ago we had Dr DePinho reversing aging in mice by turning on telomerase.
So what does it all mean? It means that we have a clearer understanding of how telomeres not only cause aging but why they seem to be AT THE CENTER of all the other theories and pathways that have been advanced to explain the disease I call aging and most of the diseases others associate with the condition they call aging.
More importantly keeping the telomeres long and healthy instead of short and sickly is looking like something we all should do to stay young and healthy ourselves! And while it’s a stretch to say turning on telomerase with compounds like TA-65 can reverse aging, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore that reality.
I hope you understand how important the latest findings are because even more than scientific understanding we have the tools to start slowing down and reversing aging right now. This in turn will get rid of a lot of those signs and symptoms, forgetfulness, loss of energy, loss of sex drive, loss of muscle mass and gain of fat, etc. I listed above.
Take home points: 1) Telomeres appear to be a central regulator of the aging process, 2) Any other theory of aging can be explained by how it relates to telomeres, 3) There are some specific things YOU can do to improve the health of your telomeres which will in turn improve your health greatly, 4) Most other theories of aging point ultimately to the telomere. Keep your telomeres healthy and you are probably keeping the rest of what matters healthy too!, 5) The Immortality Edge is a treasure trove of things you can easily do to keep your telomeres healthy and slow down their loss, 6) TA-65, a natural supplement, remains the only proven way to lengthen your telomeres.
There is a lot more to teach you so if you want to hear more let me know in the comments section and I will keep it coming! If you have a question I have not answered in my posts so far, please ask! My previous posts answer a lot of questions about supplements exercise, diet and so forth. And don’t forget our book, The Immortality Edge.
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!