What Are Telomeres?

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In order to understand what Telomeres are we need to go into the cell of our body. There are over 100 trillions cells in our body that are constantly dividing themselves to give us life. This is done by genes sitting on the 23 pairs of chromosomes found in the nucleus of each and every cell. The chromosomes are long sequences of DNA that contain all our genetic codes. Each pair of chromosomes consists of one from our mother and one from our father and are twisted around each other to form a structure called the double helix.

At the end of those Chromosomes are what’s called the Telomeres or translated from old Greek- end parts. They have no genetic function but are simply stretches of DNA that protect the rest of the chromosome. These little bits of DNA are critical to healthy cell function. They become shorter each time the cell divides. When they get too short, cells become enable replicate and can no longer divide. This is what we call Old Age and Death.

Recently scientists have studied this phenomenon. Research has shown that people over 60 that have long telomeres experience greater heart and immune system health than 60 year olds with shorter telomeres. This shows that long telomeres support health.

First observed by Professor Lenhard Hayflick in 1961, he discovered that cells cannot divide beyond a specific number of times. This is called the Hayflick Limit. Cells reaching this limit become old and die. Although Professor Hayflick discovered this important scientific principle, he did not know the cause of it.

30 years later the role of telomeres in cellular aging was finally understood. In 1990, Calvin Harley at McMaster University in Canada and Carol Greider at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the USA discovered that telomere shortening goes along with the aging process and is the direct cause of cells reaching the Hayflick Limit.

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