“I am a bit concerned about your telomeres,” the doctor told me, evenly. Telomeres are the caplike segments at the ends of the strands of DNA that make up your chromosomes—think of the plastic aglets at the ends of a shoelace—and some of mine, he could see, were not as long as he would have liked them to be.
Fifteen years ago, geneticists at the University of Utah published the results of a small test with the following finding: People older than 60 with short telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease. It’s complicated, but essentially shorter telomeres make it more difficult for your cells to split and replicate, which can lead to diseased tissue, which, in turn, can lead to all manner of health problems. Other researchers have cautioned that larger, longitudinal studies are necessary before telomere length can be firmly established as a key indicator of aging.
Raffaele hadn’t literally seen those telomeres of mine. What he’d seen were the results of blood work carried out by a lab called Repeat Diagnostics, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has become a leader in the burgeoning field of telomere diagnostics. Burgeoning because, as Raffaele posits, “telomeres are the new cholesterol”—by which he means they are (A) something measurable and understood to have explanatory powers and (B) something Big Pharma can aim at in the hope of finding the equivalent of a statin to make them more robust.
Everyone’s telomeres shorten over time, and a lot of mine were fine enough, but the ones found in a type of cell called granulocytes were really short: bottom 10 percent for my age. Not good, should some serious disease come calling.
To read the full article by Gerald Marzoti @ WIRED click on the link below