Telomeres maintain the integrity of DNA and healthy cell function by safeguarding chromosomes from coming apart during the cell replication process.
Telomeres naturally shorten over time, accelerating aging. Preliminary longevity explorations suggest using whole-plant compounds to support activity of telomerase, the enzyme responsible for elongating telomeres, to optimize longevity and healthspan.
Telomeres and Aging
The genetic blueprint for the body is contained within 23 tiny X-shaped structures called chromosomes. Nestled inside the nucleus of each cell, intact chromosomes provide instructions the body needs to grow and function properly.
Over the average human lifetime, the body’s cells divide an astounding 10 quadrillion times, creating new cells to grow and replace damaged cells. During division, small DNA pieces break off of chromosomes, causing them to shorten.
Fortunately, microscopic “caps” called telomeres — like those aglets at the end of your shoelaces — buffer chromosomes against shortening, protecting the vital genetic material inside each chromosome.
Because they protect chromosomes from coming apart due to “wear and tear” over the course of your lifetime, telomeres play a central role in determining how we age. However, telomeres are not invincible; they too are affected by the aging process. Telomere shortening that occurs naturally with age is called “telomere attrition.”
Telomeres are more than just a surrogate marker for biological aging. Irreparable telomere attrition has been shown to accelerate biological aging by exposing the chromosomal interior, where DNA damage may subsequently occur.
Short telomeres are associated with an array of age-related health concerns, including declines in brain and immune function, loss of visual acuity, and weakening of the heart and blood vessels. (2, 3, 4, 5)
A few human cells produce telomerase, an enzyme that elongates telomeres by tacking a short, repetitive DNA sequence onto existing chromosomes.
A growing body of research indicates that natural compounds can support telomerase activity and protect telomeres from premature shortening, thereby ensuring that these crucial chromosomal “buffers” remain intact.