Telomere Biology

Telomere biology describes the design, function and processes related to telomeres, repetitive sequences of DNA at the end of our chromosomes designed to prevent damage to the genes and fusion between different chromosomes.

Telomeres have been identified as a bio-indicator of our age, in other words: Our body clock. Therefore, discoveries in the field of telomere biology will have an impact on how we can stay young naturally and look younger than our chronological age.

Key Events of Telomere Biology

1938 Geneticist Hermann Müller discovers telomeres and identifies them as protective caps at the end of chromosomes.
1940 Geneticist Barbara McClintock discovered telomeres prevent chromosomes from fusing, causing cell death.
1961 Leonard Hayflick observed that there is a limit to the number of times cell divide and that the initial age of the cells impact the number of future cell divisions.
1971 Soviet scientist Alexei Olovnikov proposed for the first time that telomere shortening is responsible for the Hayflick Limit.
1975 Elizabeth Blackburn, Joseph Gall, and Meng-Chao Yao, biologists at The University of Yale discovered that telomeres consist of repetitive patterns of DNA.
1984 Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider discovered and isolated the enzyme telomerase in a strand of yeast, responsible for lengthening telomeres.
1993 Dr Bill Andrews and his team of scientists working at Geron Corporation, successfully cloned the RNA component of the human telomerase enzyme (hTR).
1997 Dr Bill Andrews and members of his team
  • were awarded second place for "National Inventor of the Year" for the hTR discovery,
  • co-discovered the protein component of the human telomerase (hTERT),
  • created immortal human skin cells by inserting a gene that induces hTERT.
1999 Dr Bill Andrews founded Sierra Sciences for the purpose of curing human ageing through finding a chemical that removes the hTERT gene repressing block in order to let the body produce telomerase itself (a Telomerase Activator).
2005 The first telomerase activating nutraceutical, TA-65, became available.
2005 Dr Bill Andrew's company Sierra Sciences developed methods to screen chemicals for the ability to induce telomerase production.
2007 Dr Bill Andrew's company Sierra Sciences discovered the chemical C0056784, which induces approximately 6% as much telomerase as is found in the immortal cancer cell line HeLa.
2008 Dr Bill Andrew's company Sierra Sciences developed a high throughput screening mechanism (hTERT RT-PCR).
2009 Elizabeth Blackburn, Jack Szostak and Carol Greider were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase".
2010 A study by Dr Ron DePhino showed that ageing in mice can be reversed by telomerase activation.
2010 Dr Bill Andrews and John Anderson from Isagenix joined forces to start screening natural components for Telomerase activation.
2011 Isagenix released the powerful nutraceutical Product B™ that makes telomere support affordable for everybody.

The Natural Ageing Process

Each of our trillions of body cells contains a set of 46 chromosomes, which carry our genetic information in form of the DNA. Every time a cell divides, the DNA inside the cell needs to be replicated as well.

Because of the way this process works (refer to the video on the left), the new DNA loses the last few base pairs during cell replication. The telomere shortens.

At conception, telomeres are about 15,000 base pairs long. At birth, this number has already been reduced to 10,000 and it continues to decline as we age until we die at about 5,000 base pairs telomere length.

As telomeres get close to the critical length, all kinds of diseases start to appear. Generally speaking, bad things happen when telomeres get short.

Accelerated Ageing

In light of telomere biology, the expression "burning the candle from both ends" takes on a whole new meaning.

There are two main causes that speed up the normal shortening of the telomeres.

1. Excessive Cell Replication

If an area of the body is under attack or injured, the rapid replication of cells is required, speeding up the naturally occurring telomere shortening.

The obvious example is a cut of the skin, which requires the surrounding skin cells to replicate more rapidly than usual. In years to come, that area of the skin will look different.

A not so obvious example is a viral attack, which requires the body's immune system to work overtime to fend off the attack. Each attack "tires" the cells out a bit more and over time, the body's response will become weaker as the cells can't replicate fast enough. We have all heard this from our family and friends: "I get the Flu/Cold every year and I can't seem to shake it. It just lingers on!"

Why do elite athletes tend to look older than they are and very often die at a younger age?
The answer can again be found on the cellular level: Due to the continued strenuous exercise, the cells of the athlete's body are required to replicate way faster than in the average person, hence the telomeres shorten at a quicker pace.

2. Oxidative Stress

Free radicals caused by environmental toxins act like clippers during cell replication, cutting off chunks of telomere base pairs.

Smoking is a classic way of self-inflicted telomere clipping, as is physical and emotional stress.

Anti-oxidants have become the focus of many health conscious people as they catch the free radicals before they can damage the cells.

The Enzyme Telomerase

Telomerase is a naturally occurring enzyme, which enables the telomeres to lengthen. All cells have a gene for Telomerase production, however, that gene is normally blocked (except in our reproductive cells).

Substances that remove this block are called Telomerase Activators.

Body Regeneration with Telomerase

The big question is: Could Telomerase not only stop our cells from getting older, but even regenerate them and make them younger?

Again, a look at nature gives a vital clue: Lobsters don't age, they just get bigger. Nobody knows how long they live, but tests have confirmed that Telomerase is present in every cell of a lobster's body.

Laboratory tests have shown that cells (including human cells) that produce telomerase become immortal. Dr Ron DePhino's study proved that aged organisms (mice) can be rejuvenated by inducing telomerase.

Telomerase Activation and Cancer

90% of cancer cells contain Telomerase, which has caused much concern if Telomerase is a cause of cancer. However, numerous studies have confirmed that Telomerase doesn't cause cancer and in fact short Telomere length increases the cancer risk. (See section III. J. of the very comprehensive article Potential Therapeutic Applications of Telomere Biology by Bill Andrews, Ph.D.).

Further Reading and Viewing

An in-depth description of the Telomere science is beyond the scope of this web site, but the below list links to excellent articles and videos about the subject.