10 Jan Aging process: The relevance of telomeres
Why do we get older? Is the aging process an unstoppable dynamic or can be fought against?
Those questions are of concern of us, particularly when age-related diseases emerge. Scientific researches show that deterioration of our body leaves a track of hallmarks.
As we become old, our organism loses cells. These replicate constantly; each time they do, telomere length decreases to a point where they are no longer able to divide (Hayflick limit). Then, cells turn into senescence or simply die. Telomeres, as ends of chromosomes, are DNA segments in charge of protecting cells. Therefore, research on this area is focused on factors which affect telomeres length and their worsening. The shorter they are, bigger the risk of suffering from age-related illnesses is. Some of them are type-2 diabetes, infections, some types of cancer and cardiovascular pathologies.
In addition, telomere length screening reveal the biological age. When this one differs significantly from the chronological age, it usually means that aging process has accelerated. The deterioration that takes place over time is particularly stronger in telomeres, because DNA repairs in lower rates. In this way, DNA damaged persist longer into them, producing cellular senescence. The proliferation of short telomeres is linked to premature onset of diseases and highest mortality risk at younger ages.
The telomerase, protein associated with telomeres, is also related to aging process. This enzyme get slower our biological clock, because the treatments which stimulate reactivation of its activity may cause a simultaneous telomere lengthening and the resulting delay of aging effects. Recent scientific researches point in this direction, although also warn about telomerase reactivation may lead to aborning tumors.
As a result, telomeres play an essential role in aging, acting like indicator of biological age and showing at a cellular level symptoms of age-related pathologies. So, is it worth to delve into the knowledge of their clinical applications?