With a bit of clever genetic engineering, a team of scientists has just found an astonishing way to significantly expand the natural lifespan of mice. Now, at least one biotech company hopes to translate this breakthrough to fight aging in humans.
Normal cells are guarded against turning malignant by telomeres. After a certain point, eroded telomeres signal cells to stop dividing. Cancer cells have chanced upon a mechanism to restore telomeres, allowing them to divide endlessly, a hallmark of cancer.
Telomere shortening is a marker for cellular aging and is linked to our susceptibility to chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Historically there have been two defining questions in telomeres studies: is there a connection between telomere lengths and our vulnerability to health risks associated with the aging process? Also, can people revise their lifestyles to lengthen their telomeres, and therefore increase their chances of staying healthy?