I've been following the scientific study of telomere length since reading Matt Ridley's classic popular science work: "Genome."
To cite a recent online article in Scientific American:
"Telomeres are caps on the ends of chromosomes, protecting them much as plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces keep the laces from fraying. Whenever chromosomes—the storehouses of our genes—are replicated in preparation for cell division, their telomeres shorten. That shrinking has led many scientists to view telomere length as a marker of biological aging, a “molecular” clock ticking off the cell’s life span, as well as an indicator of overall health.
"Studies comparing the telomere length of white blood cells among groups of volunteers show distinct correlations between telomere length and lifestyle. Those who exercise regularly have longer telomeres than those who do not. Folks who perceive themselves as the most stressed have shorter telomeres than those who see themselves as the least. Certain diseases, too, correlate with shorter telomeres, including cardiovascular (illness), obesity and Alzheimer’s."
Well, the long and the short of it - in this case, in fact the critical factor - is that it is now possible to get your telomere length tested.
Scientific American is not a "commercial" publication, so they did not provide the link to the company that plans to offer this service, but here they are: "Life Length."
Contacts for the company are as follows:
His contact information is as follows:
Chief Executive Officer
Agustín de Betancourt, 21 – 8th floor
Madrid, Spain 28003
T +(34) 91 395 6368
M +(34) 629 343 694I'll let you know exactly what's up as I find out more.
Again, telomere length is one of the critical factors in aging.
Though we're a long way from being able to modify telomere length in individual humans, another company (Geron Corp.) is working on doing exactly this. Their present focus is on the use of telomerase blocking to control the proliferation of cancer cells.
From Geron's website:
"We and others have shown that when the enzyme telomerase is introduced into normal cells, it can restore telomere length - reset the "clock" - thereby increasing the functional lifespan of the cells. Importantly, it does this without altering the cells' biology or causing them to become cancerous.
"Human telomerase, a complex enzyme, is composed of a ribonucleic acid (RNA) component, known as hTR, a protein component, known as hTERT, and other accessory proteins. In 1994, we cloned the gene for hTR, and in 1997, with collaborators, cloned the gene for hTERT.
"The 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.
"The Nobel laureates were early Geron collaborators, Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, along with Jack W. Szostak."Without further ado, let's start by checking out our telomere length with the help of the folks at Life Length.
Then we'll take it from there.
For other advances in genetic testing, please visit my earlier post on the (now private) genomics pioneer, deCODE Genetics (also featured in Ridley's book).