Telomeres, The Answer to Life
When you took biology, whether in high school or college, you probably learned about the chromosome. The ends of the chromosomes are called telomeres, but you probably didn't think much of telomeres when you were introduced to it. I want to tell you how important the telomeres are to your body and even your life.
To begin with, telomeres are a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at the end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes (Wikipedia). Telomeres allow the chromosome to be intact, and prevent deterioration by shortening the ends of the chromosome.
Unfortunately, as time goes on within the human body, and chromosomes replicate, the telomeres shorten. This is due to a problem that humans, who are eukaryotes have. This problem is an end replication problem. Due to the fact that chromosome replication, or DNA replication is bidirectional and DNA polymerase is unidirectional, the DNA polymerase must initiate replication from a primer (mcb.berkeley.edu). This causes the DNA replication process to leave 50-200 base pairs unreplicated at the 3 prime end, or at the end that gets added to when replication occurs (mcb.berkeley.edu).
Why is this significant? Life expectancy can be correlated to telomere length. Research done by Dr. Richard Cawthon, made Dr. Cawthon believe that people with longer telomeres lived longer lives. His research can be found here. He conducted a test by separating people into two groups, one group with long telomeres and another with shorter telomeres than the first group. He found out that the group with the longer telomeres lived about 5 years longer than the group with the smaller telomeres.
Dr. Cawthon also figured out that telomeres can be used to detect and even help with cancer. Cancer is the overgrowth of cells by division, but as we all know, telomeres get shorter and shorter as a cell divides. So, using a telomerase, we can shorten the length of telomeres in cancer cells, causing them to rapidly die off, thus curing the individual from cancer.
So with this much information, does it make you wonder if one day, we can develop a way to live for longer by stopping telomere shortening? This is a very highly researched topic in today's scientific world and is very intriguing for people also. I mean who wouldn't want to live forever? So, does the answer to immortality lie through telomeres?