Biotech Updates

Scientists Use Telomeres to Measure Biological Aging

April 8, 2011

Doctors consistently advise their patients to live a healthy lifestyle by exercising and refraining from smoking but some just continue the way they live. What if  the doctors show them a molecular proof that unhealthy habits are shortening their existence? The Telomeres and Telomerase Group of the Spanish National Cancer Research Center provide this test for patients. They measure the length of one's telomeres, the caps at the ends of chromosomes. When chromosomes are replicated in preparation for replication, the telomeres shorten. Thus, many scientists view telomere length as a measure of biological aging, and indicator of overall health. It has been found that those who exercise regularly have longer telomeres than those who do not. Individuals who perceive that they are most stressed were also found to have shorter telomeres than those who see themselves as the least.

"Knowing whether our telomeres are a normal length or not for a given chronological age will give us an indication of our health status and of our physiological ‘age' even before diseases appear," says María A. Blasco, head of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group. Telomere research pioneer Calvin B. Harley, who co-founded Telome Health last spring with Nobel laureate Elizabeth H. Blackburn, said that telomere length is "probably the best single measure of our integrated genetics, previous lifestyle and environmental exposures."

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