Telomeres, the Big Boss of Aging?

how to relieve painTelomere: Part of our genetic material that acts as a biologic fuse or time clock telling us how much life is left in our cells. The older we get, the shorter our telomeres get and the older and sicker our cells behave. The older and sicker our cells behave, the older and sicker we become!

DNA: our genetic material located inside the nucleus of the cell. It contains our genes inherited from mom and dad.

Mitochondria: little powerhouses that live inside the cell, needed to burn fat and oxygen to make energy, often thought to be the central source of the aging process.

I have written a lot about telomeres lately, concomitant with our book, The Immortality Edge. If you are new to my writings, please search this site for my articles on telomeres (or just click here for a  list of my articles) and read them. I have answered every question anyone has asked so far on those posts. To those of you who have read them: Thanks for your continued input and support and interest in longevity and health!

Gigantic leaps and bounds in understanding the why and how we age are being made every single day. With each step we take we get much closer to not only understanding aging, but stopping it.

In the past I upset some people by saying the words “cure aging”.

People have been saying that making aging a disease is the next big money making scheme, we are fooling with Mother Nature, and aging is natural and impossible to change and so forth.

I can understand these views since up until now 1) We didn’t understand aging, 2) We had no way of knowing if we were doing anything good to slow it down or stop it, and 3) For centuries thousands of people before us had tried, failed and were labeled quacks and snake oil salesmen and worse!, 4) We counted on traditional medicine and we were taught to believe in individual diseases. Aging was not one of them and even Big Pharma and traditional medical doctors abandoned all efforts to develop an anti-aging pill/therapies because nothing seemed to work.

Every single one of those things that WAS true in the past is not true anymore. Our understanding of the telomere has changed all of that and in the process has changed the way we look at aging.

I am a traditional medical doctor. I hold Board Certifications in Internal Medicine and Anti-Aging Medicine. And I think aging IS a disease that can be cured. In medicine we refer to “signs and symptoms” as things that point us to the correct diagnosis. I think heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cancer and most other diseases we associate with getting older are actually signs of the disease called aging.

I think forgetfulness, loss of energy, loss of sex drive, loss of muscle mass and gain of fat are all symptoms of the disease I call aging. And at the center of all this is the telomere: “the big boss” of aging.

As the big boss, what happens to the telomere explains many other theories of aging. Some of these theories you may have heard of before: wear and tear, somatic theory, antioxidant theory, and mitochondrial theory of aging to name a few. The telomere theory of aging unifies all of them.

Here is the latest example.

Last year a scientist named Passos wrote a game changing paper showing how telomere length affected a key protein in the cell called p53, which in turn caused a series of changes in organelles (mini organs!) inside the cell, known as mitochondria. The mitochondria are the powerhouses, generators or furnaces of the cell, burning fat and oxygen to make a large part of the energy we need to run our bodies.

But like any powerhouse or furnace they can go on “overload”, melt down and literally cause the cell to explode via this p53 activated “death pathway”. In less dramatic fashion the mitochondria can leak toxic chemicals (free radicals from leaky mitochondrial walls) into the rest of the cell and cause a “slow death.”

Dr Passos outlined the exact way this happens and made everyone realize that damage to our genetic material (BOTH DNA breaks and short telomeres) can cause cells to die this way via p53. But DNA breaks are common and the cell can often repair them good as new. This avoids the p53 death pathway. Short or broken telomeres (as happen in aging) require the enzyme telomerase to fix them, and this enzyme is effectively “turned off” in almost all human cells. Since it can’t be repaired the telomere keeps getting shorter and eventually causes the cell to die a slow death or explode via the p53 death pathway.

For most people this was pretty powerful but not everyone was convinced that telomeres deserved the starring role in the aging process. Some people thought the mitochondria caused the telomeres to shorten instead of vice versa.

Last week another group of scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute showed that short telomeres are the cause of things that happen inside the mitochondria like mutations in their DNA (mitochondrial DNA is totally separate from regular cellular DNA). They also established a direct link between the telomere and all the major functions of the mitochondria cellular powerhouses.

What did they find? Short telomeres lead to fewer and sicker powerhouses. They affect the way mitochondria use oxygen and sugar. They also affect how many mitochondria are there are in total. Dr Passos and the researchers from the Dana-Farber Institute both found that cell death is often orchestrated by massive leakage of free radicals from the mitochondria, which is controlled by telomere length. Thus the telomere seems to be a master director of the mitochondrial cellular powerhouses, not the other way around.

Now add this to what we already knew: long and healthy telomeres were needed for the health of our DNA. They keep our DNA from “unraveling”.

And in case you forgot, there was the recent JAMA article that showed the shorter your telomeres the more likely you are to get cancer (human study), plus just three weeks ago we had Dr DePinho reversing aging in mice by turning on telomerase.

So what does it all mean? It means that we have a clearer understanding of how telomeres not only cause aging but why they seem to be AT THE CENTER of all the other theories and pathways that have been advanced to explain the disease I call aging and most of the diseases others associate with the condition they call aging.

More importantly keeping the telomeres long and healthy instead of short and sickly is looking like something we all should do to stay young and healthy ourselves! And while it’s a stretch to say turning on telomerase with compounds like TA-65 can reverse aging, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore that reality.

I hope you understand how important the latest findings are because even more than scientific understanding we have the tools to start slowing down and reversing aging right now. This in turn will get rid of a lot of those signs and symptoms, forgetfulness, loss of energy, loss of sex drive, loss of muscle mass and gain of fat, etc. I listed above.

Take home points: 1) Telomeres appear to be a central regulator of the aging process, 2) Any other theory of aging can be explained by how it relates to telomeres, 3) There are some specific things YOU can do to improve the health of your telomeres which will in turn improve your health greatly, 4) Most other theories of aging point ultimately to the telomere. Keep your telomeres healthy and you are probably keeping the rest of what matters healthy too!, 5) The Immortality Edge is a treasure trove of things you can easily do to keep your telomeres healthy and slow down their loss, 6) TA-65, a natural supplement, remains the only proven way to lengthen your telomeres.

There is a lot more to teach you so if you want to hear more let me know in the comments section and I will keep it coming! If you have a question I have not answered in my posts so far, please ask! My previous posts answer a lot of questions about supplements exercise, diet and so forth. And don’t forget our book, The Immortality Edge.

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Dr. David Woynarowski

Dr. Dave Woynarowski, MD, was born in the 1950s in the heart of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Raised in a family of doctors and scientists, “Dr. Dave” continued the tradition, graduating from Temple Medical School in the 1980s, after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Pennsylvania with a dual major in Biology and English.

After completing his Residency in Internal Medicine, Dr. Dave passed the Internal Medicine Boards and joined his father who had been practicing Family Medicine for three decades.

Dr. Dave later embarked on a worldwide pursuit, researching the best-of-the-best in anti-aging medicine. His exhaustive search has made him one of the foremost authorities is preventative health, anti-aging, and nutritional supplements. For example, he may have more scientific research in his medical library on the health benefits of pharmaceutical grade fish oil than any other person in the world. In addition to study and research, Dr. Dave began the development of a new category of nutritional supplements, formulated from his expertise as a physician, and made from only pharmaceutical-grade ingredients.

"“I traveled the globe for many years, searching the four corners of the earth and left no stone unturned,” says Dr. Dave. “What I found is that most people can be significantly healthier through the use of high quality, properly formulated supplements. The problem was that most of the available products did not use a high enough grade of active ingredients, or did not combine the correct amount of ingredients for a multiple-pronged rather than a single-focus approach to the issue. So I developed Dr. Dave’s Best to meet the need."

Dr. Dave is also co-author of "The Immortality Edge" a book dedicated to teaching everyone about the newest hottest field in anti-aging technology, Telomere Biology and giving practical proven advice for better health and a longer life that everyone can use RIGHT NOW!

Dr. David Woynarowski

Latest posts by Dr. David Woynarowski (see all)

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  1. says

    That would probably be another book’s worth of information much of it speculative. Since most people reading this won’t want the kind of scientific detail needed to adequately answer that question I will simplify and keep it brief: I don’t think so.

    If you need a bit more here it is:

    Currently I think of FOXO, sirtuins and MTOR as protein expressions of genes that while they are anti-aging do not extend life past the telomere driven possibility. It’s easy to measure telomeres, it’s easy to measure what happens when those telomeres get short or stay longer and there are examples of both in live (and dead!) human beings. Not so with the FOXO sirtuin and MTOR expressions. While it is unrealistic to think that anything that improves cellular health is unimportant including the above proteins which are primarily involved in autophagy and non autophagy protein recycling, anti-oxidant effects and mitochondrial health there is no direct correlation to longevity in humans. Are they involved in health maintenance? Probably. Most of this research has come from attempts to explain calorie restriction/sirtuins/resveratrol. In the case of primate and the one or two human studies that are done here you see the real issue is Paleolithic eating not calorie restriction. Monkeys do better on a wild type diet than “monkey chow”! And people do better on a wild type diet than a typical Western diet. Adopting a Paleo diet automatically leads to fat loss and weight reduction even with ad libitum eating. But it is “calorie restricted” by food choice not mechanistically. In addition the one human study I know of also added a significant number of supplements into the mix that would clearly not be found under a rock, running on a trial or growing in a field!
    But you also need to ask the question what is the normal life span for a fruit fly versus its maximum lifespan and then to understand that only mammalian primates, cats dogs and horses are aging strictly by telomere loss.

    But here is an interesting citation: Autophagy. 2007 Sep-Oct;3(5):496-8. Epub 2007 Jun 20.
    Roles of mTOR and STAT3 in autophagy induced by telomere 3′ overhang-specific DNA oligonucleotides.
    Yokoyama T, Kondo Y, Kondo S.
    It shows that T oilgos of telomere overhang loops regulate MOR not vice versa. FOXO works to regulate similar pathways but it is premature to state the role of telomere dysfunction here since here are not any human studies or cell lien studies or mouse aging model studies to clarify that role. SO let me just say it looks that way as well. This important because it wraps up both older theories of aging mitochondrial and free radical oxidative into the telomere model for aging. It does not negate any of the work it just gives us a central and relatively simple way to measure it with predictable outcomes. I look forward to and I am certain of the further proof of this in human related tissues and models.
    Again you can go to far more sophisticated descriptions than above but the question should always be “what does it really mean in people”. For telomeres we have that answer.
    I think the answers to these questions will be fascinating to know but I suggest you read and follow the instructions in our book The Immortality Edge so we can ALL be around when the answer comes! Thanks for the question.

  2. Twyla says

    Why is telomerase effectively turned off in most human cells? Is it just the assaults of everyday living, or is this a normal process caused by aging, and thus reversible by activating telomerase?

  3. wolfb says

    SO can the intake of extra oxiyen and mind simulance in form of meditation directed at the point of this new understanding also stimulate the regrow or slowing of aging cells ?
    Wolfgang (Gypsywolf)

  4. says

    HI Lubomir Novotny I am not sure what you are asking. Stems cells have high expressions of telomerase compared to non stem cells and highly differentiated stem cells. For all intents and purposes this is why embryonic stem cells at least are considered immortal. So there is a HUGE application of telomerase to stem cells but stem cell therapy dose not lengthen the telomeres of existing somatic cells. Stems cells are primarily the “parts bag” that helps us replace some of our cells /tissues and organs with newly minted versions. In addition to local cell division they are another major source of cells in the repair and maintenance process.

  5. Helen says

    You never know the day or the hour
    Know how ever long we live there is a time to die
    I want to be able to stand and walk till that day comes
    Not in a nursing home or hospital.
    I just want to be healthy, and worthy when that great call comes
    keep the watch, stay obedeant look to the light
    you are all impotant to the maker. keep your chin up
    and love your neighbor. You are all so special.
    Thank you for this information yes I still like to hear about
    this information keep it coming.

  6. gennaro says

    what is the dosage for ta65and length of time to see results?yes want more on telomerms or other anti aging research thories etc.

  7. tony villar says

    the more we study and learn about how our body works, the more we know how little we understand how our bodies work. thats reality.

  8. Boomer12k says

    This would explain why DRACULA gets younger as he ingests peoples blood. The DNA and Telomeres REPLACE HIS!!!!! And so he rejuvenates. Now it all makes sense!!!!

    Be well and happy’!

  9. The doctgor says

    What are the inexpensive, natural supplements, foods and other influential factors that will lengthen, or, at least, slow the shortening of, ones telomeres? TA-65 costs around $10,000/day. What other chemicals or foods mimic TA-65 activity in the human body and its cells? What are the other survivor genes, traits, substances the restore youth or delay aging in vivo or in vitro? Please supply us with more information on these matters with detail and specifics.


  10. Boomer12k says

    TA-65 is an extract from Astragulas, (HUANG CHI), It is a Chinese herb. They take 3 tons of it, to make sure there is a 5mg dose in each capsule. You cannot get enough of it from just eating the herb. Also, you would be HIGH from all the ENERGY you would get as it is an ENERGY herb like Ginseng. It can be very potent stuff. DON’T TAKE TOO MUCH, you will be bouncing off the walls!!!!!
    If you chopped a root stick in a commercial quality blender, like I do, you get little splinters. I eat ONE of those little splinters and have energy all day.
    Do a search for Properties of Astragulas, for more info.

    Be well and happy.

  11. says

    Hi all here are the pooled answers from all of the above.

    First Fish oil: You probably can get enough in your diet if you limit your vegetable intake ( which will greatly reduce your omega 6 intake and reduce competition for whatever 18 carbon plant derived omega 3’s you still do get) eliminate all vegetable oil sourced foods all processed foods and eat 3 large servings of oily fish a day. Then you can go on chelation for the mercury toxicity. Fish oil supplementation is much simpler. You get big benefits when your 6 to 3 ratio hits 4 to 1 and incrementally more as you approach and slightly pass a 1 to 1 ratio.
    Next the telomerase question: you’ll have to ask the almighty that one there are a dozen different answers and all of them are speculative.

    Next to Steve 1 now recognize you. Did you get off TA or just reduce the dose. I had to take over 200mg (2x the recommended dose) to get any “wired effects” For me 100mg is goldilocks.

    Astragalus in any reasonable form has some potent anti-oxidant effects and there are a few human cell culture lines modified for rapid turnover ( a lab prerequisite no one wants to wait weeks for cells to divide!) that show telomere preservation effects although not through the activation of telomerase. Those familiar with the TAT2 studies will know exactly what I mean.

    TA-65 at its low dose is $2200 a year and $8000 at its high dose not 10K a day! The higher doses show more subjective effects within a few weeks. All doses show objective effects like turning on telomerase but most people don’t “feel” the lower doses. You can contact me via my website if you are interested in getting started on TA-65

    AS to all the other things you can do please check all the other writings I’ve done here by searching “telomere” on this site and read our book The Immortality Edge. I wrote it with 2 other very bright people Greta Blackburn and Mike Fossel who have always been ahead of the curve.

  12. Anonymous says

    How would such a substance be “made” or coined from nature for a supplement- or would it be a whole list of supplements that I hav enow on my shelf?

  13. says

    With regards to meditation the mechanism is thought to be due to increase parasympathetic vagal tone decreased oxidation primarily due to down regulation of the hormonal cascades from the adrenals but it this of a case of “we know it works before we are sure why”.

  14. William Cocker says

    Has any research been done on using mind/body communication, (e.g. The Silva Method) to cause telomeres to grow longer? I’m asking because it’s always possible for “substances” to be in short supply, whereas you always have your mind. I live at 40th and plumb, “40 miles from anywhere important and plumb out in the sticks.” It’s often difficult to get “stuff” out here even via the internet.

  15. Twyla says

    If I read Dr Dave right there are many substances that can slow down telomere loss as anti-oxidants but only TA-65 that can add length. I searched Silva mind control and could find nothing about telomeres. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr Dave’s book talk about mindfulness meditation which is easy to do.

  16. says

    The stem cell question: I am not a stem cell expert but it is my understanding that embryonic stem cells have high expressions of telomerase needed to keep them immortal already. AS they progress down the differentiation pathway towards typical “somatic” cells telomerase is sequentially reduced and often turned off. So since its already “on ” in stem cells TA-65 is not going to do much there. TA-65 primarily affects the somatic cell lines and these are the ones in need of “help” anyway in terms of slowing down aging and improving their health and function. When researchers have “gone backwards” from somatic cells to the so called iPSC the closest thing we have to embryonic stem cells now, telomerase expression returns.

  17. Anonymous says

    Dr Dave
    What benefits TA-65 would have directly to the underlying causes of diabetes, high blood pressure and the relation between HDL and Triglycerides ratio, to be honest I never believed about the cholesterol myth as it is depicted, the overall picture is not being address, what is your stance on this subject? Will TA-65 benefit in every respect? JAM

  18. Sheryl says

    Thank you for your great article.
    My question is regarding my menopausal symptoms of belly fat gain,hot flashes and fatigue. I tried bio-identical hormones and they didn’t work for me. I don’t have a spleen. What would you recommend? Where do I purchase TA65 and is there a recommended manufacturer? I also have a very itchy rash in my right calf area on my leg. No Doctor has been able to help me get rid if it. Any thoughts?
    Thank you.

  19. says

    In answer to the above questions I can’t make online medical diagnosis. Any one who is truly interested in TA-65 should contact me directly at I highly doubt TA-65 will reverse menopause although we do have some women in their mid 50’s who have yet to experience it for no other apparent reason.
    The human study with TA-65 showed improved blood glucose cholesterol and many other markers of inflammation and aging but please be advised TA-65 is a supplement not a drug so no medical claims can be made. Everyone needs to make sure as well that they have adequate Omega 3 “fish oil” intake to keep inflammation at bay in their body!

  20. Anonymous says

    i am 68 and have been taking 8mg of ta-65 daily for three months. i notice occasional nightmares. is this a reported side effect of taking ta-65?

  21. says

    Thanks to all the commentators. As to the question of nightmares, that is not a side effect we hear about. I would also comment that you must be on the older form of TA-65 as it is now available only in units.

  22. tri says

    I am a 59 year old female with and HDL above 100 (consistent for may year). LDL60, cholesterol 201, take no meds, normal BP, 5’7″, 138lbs. I have read that higher HDL’s are seen in those that live to be 100 or more. Does higher HDL keep the telomeres long?

  23. says

    HI Gang sorry I have been off lecturing about telomeres for the past 6 months!

    HDL is associated with longevity but there has not been a causal link. IN other words its common for people who live along time to have High HDL’s but this may not be the reason they live longer.

    Current costs for low dose (1 cap daily) TA-65 are $219 a month.

    Be well!

  24. Gertrude "Trudy" says

    Last I heard, the lowest price for telomere therapy ran around US$1,000 every 45 days. Nice to know if that info is outdated..? Sure would like to have it if it has become affordable. Has it?

  25. D says

    I am a 52 year old male who is rarely ever ill. If I do get something I bounce back within a day or 2.

    I started taking TA-65 in November & in December started feeling ill. It is now March & in that time I have had 2 full blown colds, sore throat, coughing, bronchitis, fevers, nausea & lack of energy. It seemed that as one set of symptoms disappeared a new one would start.

    Recently I had blood work done & the Dr who recommended TA 65 to me told me I had the mono virus. He said 2 other patients whom had started taking TA65 complained of the same symptoms & both had the mono virus.

    Have you heard of this occurring in other?

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