A recent study conducted at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre has found that a gene therapy is able to increase the length of telomeres in mice, thereby increasing their lifespan by up to 24 percent.
The Division of Hematology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that when mutant stem cells which are damaged and aging are treated with the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), it prevents and delays the onset of a type of bone marrow failure called X-linked dyskeratosis congenita (DC).
A March 2011 study conducted by Elissa Epel, PhD and Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, among others, sought to discover the ways in which stress affects the human body. Specifically, Epel (UCSF) and Blackburn (UCSF) aimed to use previously studied biomarkers to determine how psychological stress and, conversely, psychological well-being, impact human lifespan, healthspan, and susceptibility to chronic illness. The human telomere was used as the biomarker, along with the enzyme that maintains and replenishes telomere lengths, telomerase.
The study is prefaced with the following: “The length of telomeres offers insight into mitotic cell and possibly organismal longevity. Telomere length has now been linked to chronic stress exposure and depression. This raises the question of how might cellular aging be modulated by psychological functioning.”
Seizing on this question, researchers at UC Davis conducted a study to find out how meditation impacts telomeres, and therefore how meditation and increased mindfulness influences human healthspan.
Biological research on cellular longevity reached a cornerstone in 2009 when Elizabeth BlackBurn, Carol Greider, and Jack Szostak all won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering that telomeres, protective DNA caps at the ends of chromosomes, govern the lifespan of cells. The length of telomeres in turn are protected and augmented by an enzyme called telomerase.