A telomere is part of our genetic material that acts kind of like 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. It’s that simple.
DNA, as you probably know, is our genetic material that’s located inside the nucleus of each of our cells. It contains our genes inherited from mom and dad.
Mitochondria are the little powerhouses that live inside our cells. They’re needed to burn fat and oxygen to make energy, often thought to be the central source of the aging process.
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’ve upset some people by using the term “cure aging”.
“Aging IS a disease that can be cured”
People have said that thinking about aging as a disease is a 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. (Or it should.)
I’m 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.
Most major diseases are signs of the disease called aging
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’s an example.
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.”
Shortening telomeres lead to cell death and aging
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) however 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 this causes the cell to die a slow death or explode via the p53 death pathway.
For most people this was a pretty powerful revelation, 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.
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 teleomeres mean less & (and less powerful) powerhouses
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 a JAMA article that showed the shorter your telomeres the more likely you are to get cancer (human study), plus Dr DePinho reversed 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.
Keeping telomeres long & healthy helps us stay young & healthy
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 these 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) My book 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.
My previous posts on telomeres answer a lot of questions about supplements exercise, diet and so forth if you want to learn more.
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!
Latest posts by Dr. David Woynarowski (see all)
- A simple explanation of telomeres and aging - February 19, 2011
- More on telomeres and cancer - February 11, 2011
- Could anti-aging telomeres contain the cure for cancer? - January 12, 2011