Telomeres are sections of DNA at the end of each chromosome that cap genetic material andserve as protective buffers that keep the ends of chromosomes from becoming attached to eachother or rearranging. They are often compared to the caps at the ends of shoelaces. Every timea cell replicates, its telomere gets shorter, eventually causing cell death once the telomereattrition has reach its maximum. Measuring telomere length in human lymphocytes is an indicatorof cellular aging, and research demonstrates that shortened telomeres are responsible for manyof the normal processes of aging.
Telomeres have been a hot topic for several years now because theirlink with aging is so strong. Doctors have shown such a persistentinterest in telomere testing, especially those whose practices areoriented to anti-aging, that we knew we should invest in it. It’s reallycutting edge.” says SpectraCell CEO, William “Chip” Stanberry. “Westrive to offer the most informative and innovative diagnostic tests, andour new Telomere Testing is exactly that.”
The phenomenon of cellular aging was first noted by Professor Lenhard Hayflick in 1961. He discovered that cells cannot divide beyond a specific number of times, a phenomenon called the Hayflick Limit, which we now know is triggered by the cell’s telomeres shortening below a specificthreshold. When cells can no longer divide, conditions associated with advanced aging appear.
Telomere length is affected by many factors: age, genetics, lifestyle, disease andpharmaceuticals. Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes,obesity and dementia have strong associations with shorter telomeres. But telomere attrition canbe mitigated significantly with aggressive lifestyle therapies as well as certain medications. Sincedeficiencies in nutrients such as vitamins C, D and E can shorten telomeres, it is important tocorrect such deficiencies. Oxidative stress is another major culprit in telomere shortening soreducing inflammation and shoring up the body’s antioxidant defenses is critical for telomeremaintenance. A sedentary lifestyle and excess weight also negatively affects telomere length.
SpectraCell’s test measures a person’s telomere length. A control gene is also measured andcompared to the telomere length, and then results are stated as a ratio. A higher ratio means alonger telomere, and younger biological age. The Telomere Score is also compared to otherindividuals in the same chronological age group.
This automated test is based on Quantitative Real Time PCR (polymerase chain reaction)technology and only requires 1 mL of whole blood. When a sample is received at SpectraCell’sHouston laboratory, the white blood cells are broken apart, the DNA is extracted and thetelomeric DNA is amplified into a measurable signal. This signal is compared to a control gene ofknown length and a Telomere Score is generated. The price of the Telomere Test, which is not yet covered by insurance, is $499. Testing once each year or every other year issuggested to monitor the rate of telomere loss.