Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age. They are combinations of DNA and protein that protect the ends of chromosomes and also help them remain stable. As they become shorter, their structural integrity weakens, and the cells age and die quicker.
Telomeres have been compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other; which would scramble an organism’s genetic information to cause cancer, other diseases, and possibly fatality.
What role do telomeres play in cancer?
As a cell begins to become cancerous, it divides more often, and its telomeres become very short. If its telomeres get too short, the cell may die. It can escape this fate by becoming a cancer cell and activating an enzyme called telomerase, which prevents the telomeres from getting even shorter. Studies have found shortened telomeres in many cancers, including pancreatic, bone, prostate, bladder, lung, kidney, and head and neck.
What About Telomeres and Aging?
Among people older than 60, those with shorter telomeres were three times more likely to pass from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease.
A small pilot study shows for the first time that changes in diet, exercise, stress management, & social support may result in longer telomeres; (the parts of chromosomes that affect aging)
Telomere shortening has been associated with increased risk for prostate cancer recurrence in patients who have undergone radical prostatectomy and it’s theorized that telomere maintenance/ lengthening may be associated with better health and a longer life.
For an appointment or consultation with Dr. Gary Bellman, please contact the office or call 818-912-1899