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SCIENCE Are 'Telomeres' the key to unlocking eternal youth? They exist in our DNA and cause our cells to die every time they replicate but they also regenerate our bodies

At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres, which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide, and hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer.

Published 27 AUG 2017 11:23AM

You may have heard the saying, 'Nothing is certain, but death and taxes' a phrase coined by Benjamin Franklin in a letter he wrote circa 1789 regarding the American Constitution. To this day, that statement still stands.

Humans have been fixated on death and the afterlife from the earliest recorded civilizations and many have sought to discover the key to immortality. From the Holy grail to the mysterious fruits of Sumerian mythology along with the Mayans and Egyptians, they all document ways to attain immortality. Given that none of these cultures walk the earth today, we have to assume these methods didn't work.

Human DNA was first sequenced in 1977 and ever since, scientists have been trying to understand just exactly how it works and why it works. Essentially, we know DNA contains instructions for cell growth that guide how the human body develops. We also know the older we get the more our cells fail to regenerate and slowly die, with us along for the downhill ride.

So how do we stop this?

DNA strand with visable 'Telomere' tips

For the body to survive it must regenerate and it does this by replicating cells to replenish dying ones. Each strand of DNA has a tip called a 'Telomere', this tip protects the genetic data inside our DNA so that when it replicates, it can generate new, healthy cells to keep us going. However, every time a strand of DNA replicates our telomeres shrink which means eventually they can no longer produce healthy cells.

This is heavily discussed in the book
The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer

This is why our cells eventually die, along with us and why we "age".

This also explains why people "age" at different rates, not everybody's telomeres shrink at the same speed so some people will naturally degenerate slower or faster than others.

Even pop culture seeks to glorify the Holy Grail as a fountain of youth

Indiana Jones & the Holy Grail

Scientists are now trying to find ways to either reduce, stop or even extend these telomere tips to prevent cells from dying and our DNA becoming damaged.

There is an enzyme present in DNA called, 'Telomerase' which actually counteracts the shortening of a telomere. This enzyme also diminishes as you age so potentially finding a way to increase the presence of this could extend life, prevent cells from dying and even help to reverse the aging process.

It's still not entirely clear just exactly what role telomeres play in the aging process but evidence so far suggests the role is quite significant. There are several companies already offering medical products claiming to extend the life of your telomeres, but many have come up against very strong criticism and even lawsuits.

Unlocking the secrets of these DNA protecting tips could bring us closer to immortality. But, who wants to live forever? Check it out



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