Telome Health, Inc. (THINC), a biotechnology firm based in Menlo Park, CA has launched the beginning phase of a research study that will measure and analyze age-based average telomere lengths of Bay Area residents.
A new prospective study suggests that people who have white blood cells with shorter telomeres are at a higher risk of developing cancer. This research is the first of its kind to address the direct connection between telomeres and cancer. In what is known as the Bruneck Study, the telomeres of 787 subjects in England, Austria and Italy were monitored over the course of ten years.
Conducted by Brian Duggan via email in August 2011
Brian Duggan: Can you please share with our readers a little of your background, and how you personally got interested in Telomere Science and its relationship with healthy aging?
Maria Blasco: After I did my PhD in Madrid, I was working at one of the leading Molecular Biology Institutes in Madrid, founded by Nobel Prize Lauretate Severo Ochoa. My supervisor, Dr. Margarita Salas, had the highest opinion of research performed at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York where she knew its Director, Bruce Stillman. Therefore, in the early nineties, when I saw that there was a new Junior Group, headed by Carol W. Greider, working with the enzyme telomerase, it was clear to me that I had to work in that Group.
A new frontier in medical science is making a historic splash in the way many researchers are thinking about the aging process. The length of our telomeres (protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that fray away and diminish naturally as we get older) may hold the key to discovering how well our bodies will age and our susceptibility to chronic illnesses.
One researcher from Spectracell said in a recent NBC interview that the value of telomeres testing for the general public is as a measure of how well you are aging on the inside. The wearing of telomeres over time, which progresses at significantly different rates for different people, even those close in chronological age, is based on a combination of genetic and environmental factors and is linked to increased vulnerability to age-related illnesses.