The red ends show regions of telomeres in a chromosome (structure in the cell nucleus containing DNA, histone & nonhistone proteins)

The red ends show regions of telomeres in a chromosome (structure in the cell nucleus containing DNA, histone & nonhistone proteins)

Our deepest rooted fears finally to end?


No aspect of the world has dumbfounded humanity like the idea of death.   Humans have been afraid yet also intrigued with the idea of mortality since the days we lived in caves.  Throughout human history, the idea of immortality has been explored. The Greeks dreamed of the Gorgons, Tolkien gave us the elves

Could the mystery of immorality finally be revealed?

Recently, three American scientists won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work on the ‘immortality enzyme’ known as telomerase which extends telomeres. Telomeres are small strands of DNA found at the end of each chromosome that protect and prevent harm to the DNA contained within.   Every time cells replicate a small portion of the telomere is lost.  After a certain amount of replication the telomere becomes so short that it prevents the DNA information of the chromosome to replicate and cells begin to degrade and eventually die.

Could preventing telomere shortening really hold the secret to aging?

Population studies which have been conducted show that older people on average have shorter telomeres than those in younger populations but does such evidence prove the importance of telomere length in longevity?  If the loss of telomeres can be replaced with each subsequent replication, theoretically cell division could occur infinitely and no signs of age will be present.  However, infinite cell division is a property that is also witnessed in cancer.  Furthermore, the studies showed that not every individual has a decreasing telomere length with age.  In about 1/3 people, the telomere length actually remained stable or increased as they become older. Though the significance of this finding is yet to be known,  some scientists believe that these individuals have an incredible anti-aging mechanism whilst others believe this is an early indicator of cancer.

In fact the activity of telomerase has linked both longevity and cancer together in the sense that there seems to be a trade off between the two. We know that for telomeres to become longer, telomerase is needed to provide tiny DNA repeating units which replace those that have been lost.  As we age, telomerase’s become deactivated in the body and cell reproduction is no longer possible.  Cells which do not die are those which can replicate indefinitely such as cancer cells.  Cancer cells will continue to divide endlessly and must have active telomerases. Is it then possible to treat cancer by deactivating these telomerase enzymes?  Is it possible to prevent aging but activating the telomerase enzyme? If scientists were to activate the telomerase enzyme everywhere in the body of older humans, cell replication could once again take place but at the risk of cancer. Perhaps scientists should target telomerase activation at specific parts of the body where cell regeneration will be prove to benign and not malignant like in cancer.



7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matt Calissi on March 18, 2010 at 10:50

    Hi Aditya,

    That’s a great article, I am interested where you obtained the picture that appears in your article… the one with the red ends showing regions of telomeres in a chromosome (purple)


  2. Thats cool. I agree, that was a good post! but i m not agree to you to.
    it is very difficult to follow them, well according to me, one should try anti aging product reviews.
    Yes its possible to do naturaly, but it will surely help the casue lot.
    You will find here a nice collection of free anti ageing cream


  3. Posted by AttilagfMatuschka on October 27, 2009 at 03:37

    our species mentality should always be suspect in our decisions and believes. The gene supplying us with wisdom, is rare enough to make a person who has some, highly suspicious. That some parts of the world’s earth has chemicals that promote sanity, like Lithium, health, like selenium or arsenic, or the antioxidant in prunes has been surprising to the health industries, and those few of us who have become aware of that.


  4. […] 99.9999991% the speed of light. And for those tiny particles, time slows down for them (another immortality […]


  5. Posted by Aditya Rana on October 13, 2009 at 02:32

    It is true that death and aging are quite different from each other. Perhaps longevity without any signs of age will benefit those who believe they have not achieved everything they wanted to or maybe all of this could simply be a ingenious method to drive out the billion dollar cosmetic industry out of business.

    A village containing an unusual amount of elderly in China is not surprising. The chinese population expanded rapidly in the 20th century and now it is coming of age with fewer younger people being born due to their birth regulations. Though I do not disagree that diet may play an important part in your longevity, I am still not entirely convinced by a few scientists pinning down an odd custom to ‘unusual number of elderly.’ If you look up Jeanne Calment, the oldest recorded person to have lived you will notice that she smoked well into her 100s, ate absurd amounts chocolate and drank wine. I wonder how short her telomeres were 🙂


  6. You may be correct in terms of the aged not being afraid of death. I guess they have lived enough to be happy with what they have achieved. But I would still love to live for at least 200 years, to be able to study the world in its shear beauty.

    I have read about people in (if I am correct) China, in a small village. Their diet involves eating until one is about half full. It has been said that the village has an unusual number of elderly and scientist put it on their diet/eating habits.


  7. Posted by seneca on October 12, 2009 at 16:54

    Death and aging are, of course, two different topics.

    Staying vigorous and healthy until death (avoiding that aspect of aging) would be wonderful.

    As young undergraduates, you may not realize that the aged do not fear death, but accept it. It’s the way Life is.

    Death of a loved one is horrid. Personal death, if one has lived some alloted term, is okay!

    You will find that the greatest fear in dying is not having lived. It is not fear of Death.



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