Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The “Telomere Test” for Aging

Telomeres are disposable non-coding regions of DNA at the tail end of each chromosome. Every time a cell divides and its chromosomes are replicated, a small piece of each telomere is removed. That’s because replication stops just short of the end of the original strand because of the need for a primer sequence on each developing new strand. This natural erosion of the telomeres is thought to play a key role in the aging process. Once the telomeres are worn away by repetitive cell divisions, according to at least one current theory of aging, the cell may begin to lose pieces of functional genes with each additional cell division. Eventually the loss of genes either causes the cell to stop dividing or the cell loses some of its normal function.

Now, two commercial companies (one in the U.S., one in Spain) are offering to measure the length of your telomeres - for a price, of course. According to a news report, the companies are promoting the idea that the length of your telomeres may be predictive of how fast you will age, and perhaps even predictive of your risk of developing chronic diseases. Long telomeres for your age? - you’re lucky, you may live a long life. Short telomeres? - perhaps you’d better change your lifestyle or begin looking at ways to reduce your risk of chronic diseases while there’s still time!

Pardon my skepticism, but it sounds a bit like having your fortune told. Spend your money if you wish, but don’t count on learning anything very meaningful just yet from measurements of your telomere’s lengths.

No comments: