At the center of our cells is a complex bio-computer. This tiny computer contains all the instructions our body needs survive, reproduce, and manufacture enzymes. Everyday this small computer works to heal our body and to repair our tissues. Without this complex system we couldn’t possible survive. And what do we call this complex bio-computer? We call it DNA.
Human DNA is made up of 23 paired chromosomes. The DNA is made up of coded and non-coded DNA. The coded DNA can be made transcribed and translated into proteins for use in the body. DNA is made up of four nucleotides. The nucleotides are adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T).
Each of these pairs of chromosomes at its end has a specific chain of nucleotides called telomeres. They are repeating patterns of TTAGGG on one side and AATCCC on the other side.
Function of Telomeres
Telomeres protect the chromosomes from damage. They keep the chromosomes from losing nucleotides from the end and also keep the chromosomes from fusing to one of the other 23 chromosomes. The length of telomeres can reach up to 15,000 however blood cells have usually 8000 at birth. Some liken the telomere to the plastic tip on a shoelace. The protect it and keep it from unraveling.
Each time a cell divides the telomeres lose 30-200 nucleotide pairs causing the telomeres get shorter. The blood cell which has 8000 nucleotide pairs at birth may go down to 1500 pairs in the elderly.
Telomeres and Cell Death, Cancer, and Lifespan
When the telomere gets too short the cell can die. However there is another ominous option and that is the cell undergoes genetic damage leading to cancerous mutations.
Lifespan can to an extent be predicted by telomere length. One study found that those with longer telomeres lived on average 5 years longer than those with shorter telomeres.
Telomerase, Protecting the Telomere
An enzyme in the cell called telomerase helps rebuild the 30-200 pairs lost when the cell divides. It is much more active when we are young and our telomeres stay relatively long. As we age the telomerase levels decreases and our telomere length decreases as well.
Telomerase and Cancer
We mentioned how when telomeres become short the cell can become cancerous. What makes cancer so deadly is the cells then become immortal. They do this by producing an overabundance of telomerase. This telomerase keeps the cancer cells from dying which results in overgrowth.
In fact it is thought if we could stop telomerase in the cancer cell they would again become mortal. But with any other type of treatment there are risks of this hurting the other cells that need telomerase to protect them.
Astragalus and Telomerase
Astragalus has been found to help promote telomerase activation. Cycloastragenols and astragalosides in astragalus root are the active components activating telomerase to help keep the telomeres long and even undo some of the damage done to the telomeres by cell division.
A new extract of astragalus has hit the market. It is called TA-65. TA-65 is very expensive at over 200 dollars for 30 capsules. However if money isn’t an object the product is a proven telomerase activator.
The follow video is a great demonstration of how telomerase works.