Life Span, Cancer Linked to Chromosome 'Tails'

February 05, 2008 07:09 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Several studies find that the ends of our chromosomes, known as telomeres, could influence life span, aging, stress and the development of cancer.

30-Second Summary

Chromosomes are strands of DNA that contain our genes, and at the end of each strand is a telomere. The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) likens telomeres to “the hard ends of your shoelaces."

Several recent studies have linked this small portion of the human chromosome to stress, life span, aging and even the development of cancer.

Telomeres work to prevent the loss of genetic material. When cells divide, telomeres shorten. When they become too short, cells can die or work improperly.

These tiny telomeres, AFAR says, have been called “biological clocks” and “time bombs.” Research has linked shorter telomeres to shorter life spans as well as chronic stress.

The most recent study shows that some people who are active have telomeres that are the same length as sedentary people who are 10 years their junior. Because telomeres shorten with age, the inference is that an active lifestyle slows the rate at which people age biologically.

These findings strengthen the argument that physical activity plays a role in prolonging life.

Headline Links: Telomeres linked to cancer, mortality and stress

Related Link: ‘Sedentary Life “Speeds up Aging”’

Reference: Telomere and chromosome basics


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