An international team of scientists led by the University of Leicester has found new evidence that links faster 'biological' ageing to the risk of developing several age-related diseases -- including heart disease, multiple sclerosis and various cancers.
This is related to the length of so-called 'telomeres' and an association of known genetic variants which affect telomere length with a disease, suggesting a causal link between telomere length and that disease.
Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes that are similar to the plastic caps at the end of a shoelace. As the plastic ends shred, and the shoelace becomes frayed and damaged, so too the shortening of our telomeres can leave our cells vulnerable to damage. Telomeres are considered an index of cell age and are like a clock of the cell’s lifespan. Telomere shortening means the cell’s lifespan is shortening.
Dr Veryan Codd, Senior Research Associate at the University of Leicester who co-ordinated the study and carried out the majority of the telomere length measurements said: "The findings open of the possibility that manipulating telomere length could have health benefits. While there is a long way to go before any clinical application, there are data in experimental models where lengthening telomere length has been shown to slow and in some situations reverse age-related changes in several organs."
Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine