The long and the short of your telomeres
A friend of mine, Bonnie, sent me an interesting site, which offers to determine the length of your telomeres (pronounced tea/low/mirrors). My initial response, given that telomeres shorten with age, was that the test would only tell you what you could already know by looking at your birth certificate: your age.
Telomeres length indicates wear and tear on your chromosomes; like the tread depth on your tires. Each time a cell divides, the end of the chromosomes (telomere) generally gets shortened. Normally, a cell can only divide so many times before the telomeres on the chromosome ends are too short to allow any more replications and the cell dies.
TeloMe, the company in question, will determine the length of your telomeres. This can be used as a starting point to monitor how healthy you are living; you can make life style choices to lengthen your telomeres such as limiting caloric intake, not smoking, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and getting regular exercise. Hmmmm…What do peer-reviewed articles in reputable journals say? Querying the PubMed database with the word “telomere” leads to 14,000+ papers. Yikes! That’s a lot to review.
This is fluorescent microscope image of chromosomes (DNA, in blue) with the telomeres in yellow.
Fortunately, there is another company, Telome Health(TH)—no relationship with TeloMe, as per a phone call to TH’s offices—that has nicely gathered a “short” list of 155 peer-reviewed papers on telomeres. There is strong evidence for the shortening of telomeres being a bad thing. You can shorten the rate at which your telomeres are shortened. However, I am not convinced that there is way to lengthen your telomeres.
So should I get my telomere length tested?
So if you really want to go ahead and test the length of your telomeres you have my permission. Personally, I would go with the already established company, Telome Health. The company is well established and certified to do the testing as a clinical diagnostic test.
Or if you want to do it the less expensive way, take care of yourself:
1) Eat nutritious healthy meals
2) Get regular sleep
3) No smoking
4) Get regular exercise
5) Take Omega-3 fats
6) Reduce stress in your life
Basic, good living will keep you healthy. This just helps to explain why and gives you a way to track it.
DeeAnn Visk, Ph.D., is a freelance science writer, editor, and blogger. Her passions include cell culture, molecular biology, genetics, and microscopy. DeeAnn lives in the San Diego, California area with her husband, two kids, and two spoiled hens. You are welcome to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org