What Are Telomeres and Telomerase?
Telomeres help guard our DNA, promoting healthy cell growth and a number of other important factors. Like the aglets on a shoelace, they keep our DNA from fraying and protect the very building blocks of our bodies. Telomerase is the enzyme that keeps the telomeres in business, rebuilding them if they’re damaged and has even been shown to combat the shortening of telomeres.
The foods you eat, responses to stress, amount of exercise you complete, and social support are all varying choices and influences in life. But despite their disparities, the daily factors can affect a genetic component contributing to a life full of, or lacking health… Understanding and nourishing telomeres may just be your key to a long health span.
What Are Telomeres?
First off, it is important to understand basic components of genetics. Also known as a deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA is the hereditary material that contains unique genetic codes, in the form bases, that produces long strands. Bases are the basic units of genetic instructions and read as adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T). Genes are made up of DNA, and act as instructions that are found within chromosomes, resembling an 'X', and found within the cells' nuclei (or their centers). With such critical responsibilities of each genetic component, their protection is vital, yet achieved thanks to…
To put in more picturesque terms, telomeres can be thought as the tips of shoelaces (also known as aglets), with the chromosome being the lace. Without the aglet, shoelaces are more likely to become frayed and damaged. But luckily for shoelaces, they can be replaced, and a new set can be strung onto the shoes. Telomeres are composed of the sequence 'TTAGGG' and repeated an average of 3,000 times, though can reach up to 15,000 base pairs in length. Their purpose is to help organize chromosomes, prevent chromosomes from sticking to others, and facilitate proper cell division. And each time a cell divides, chromosomes shorten; but thanks to telomeres, the chromosomal DNA is left unharmed, unless telomeres start to become too short. The shortening and potential absence of telomeres can compromise DNA, and eventually cause cells to die with a loss of genes.
While telomeres are vital for genetic preservation, they do not exactly act as a one-man show… In fact, they require the assistance of telomerase. Acting as an enzyme, telomerase is made up of protein and RNA and elongates chromosomes by adding bases on telomeres. The process creates new patterns on its own biochemical sequence, acting responsible for restoring the DNA lost during cell divisions. Ultimately, telomerase replenishes telomeres by adding telomeric DNA to them, and have been touted to slow, prevent, or even reverse the shortening of telomeres that comes with cell division. Their volume significantly impacts the fate of telomeres, as an abundance of telomerase encourages cell division, while insufficiency can cause cell division to stop prematurely. If telomere and telomerase health becomes negotiated, cellular aging (also known as senescence) occurs, a process in which a cell becomes old and dies. And though cells are constantly aging, being able to control telomerase availability and productivity, and the rate of telomere shortening, proposes exciting possibilities.
The Impact of Telomeres and Telomerase
So all scientific talk aside, you may be wondering "What's in it for me?" Keeping telomeres and telomerase healthy and ample reduces cell death, and offers them renewal. Their implications to health have been nonetheless compelling, including slowing down the aging process, combatting against cancer, and reducing the risk of chronic disease. But their benefits are not based on luck and hope, and achieving them does require some attention on your end. Telomeres and telomerase thrive in healthful conditions, including internal conditions from a nutritious diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management, along with environmental factors.