Telomeres: The Bananas of Aging
In a boon to what appears to be the science of preventing aging, Stanford Medicine reports that “Researchers delivered a modified RNA that encodes a telomere-extending protein to cultured human cells. Cell proliferation capacity was dramatically increased, yielding large numbers of cells for study.”
As Life in the Boomer Lane is well aware that her readership is directed mainly at those people who are now using most of their few remaining brain cells to attempt to keep track of their car keys, cell phones, and the ages of their grandchildren, she will interpret this unnecessarily wordy sentence for you.
Telomeres are the little caps that protect the ends of our chromosomes. Each time a cell divides the telomeres shorten. This occurs until there are no telomeres left. Chromosomes are then naked, defenseless, creatures, that are vulnerable to aging. The result is sudden back fat, nose hairs, and the tendency to double-book.
In case you are now, with the prospect of eternal youth looming on the horizon, contemplating tossing your Spanx, purchasing sleeveless summer tops, and tracking down your high school boyfriend, a word of caution: The result is temporary. It only lasts for 48 hours. After that time, the newly lengthened telomeres begin to progressively shorten again with each cell division. So telomeres are like Cinderella at the ball and bananas. They each have a short shelf life.
What can be done to extend the life of the telomere, you ask. Or, if you have already lost the jist of this post and haven’t asked, LBL will provide the answer: “The researchers found that as few as three applications of the modified RNA over a period of a few days could significantly increase the length of the telomeres in cultured human muscle and skin cells.”
In other words, although Cinderella gets to stay a bit longer at the ball, she doesn’t get to go back to Prince Charming’s apartment, for some much-deserved frolic. It will be up to scientists to continue working on extending the life span of the telomere, until Cinderella is able to spend the night at Charming’s place and rise in the morning to execute the Walk of Shame.
The bottom line is to hold off on the Spanx-tossing for the time being. You’ll also have to continue to keep your current life partner, and spend a fortune for glasses with progressive lenses, have hip/knee replacements, and keep having to buy larger and larger weekly pill boxes. Hopefully, the case of the disappearing telomeres will be resolved while you are still able to text and haven’t yet aged out of the age categories on Match.com.