What are Telomeres, and what do they have to do with longevity?
In any living organism, including humans, cells divide (or split) into a higher number of cells. This is how our bodies maintain themselves and heal themselves from injury. Within cells are chromosomes. Our DNA patterns are primarily found in chromosomes. Telomeres are located on the ends of chromosomes. They keep the chromosomes from deteriorating, among other things. However, telomeres themselves degrade over time. In the early stages of life, telomeres are long, and they are shortened as a human gets older. When a telomere becomes too short, the cell is no longer able to divide and produce new cells. Instead, it begins to deteriorate and will eventually die.
In short, the longer the telomere is, the better able the body is to maintain itself on a cellular level. When telomeres become too short, the body begins to degrade.
What is Telomerase?
Enzymes are responsible for chemical reactions on a cellular level. Telomerase is an enzyme that can work to increase the length of telomeres. However, note that telomeres can sometimes become too long. When this happens, it can result in cancer and various tumors. When telomeres are a good length (not too long or short), optimal health is promoted.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are unique because they can split into other cells that are not specialized. In other words, most cells divide into the same kind of cell as it was before. Stem cells, on the other hand, can split into many different types of cells. This makes them ideal for medical research, because they could be used (and have been used) in many different ways for many different purposes.
What is Stem Cell Research?
Now that we’ve provided this background information let us address the practical application in the United States of America.
Stem cells were discovered by Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch in 1961. They realized that harnessing the regenerative power of stem cells could lead to many treatments for various diseases and injuries. Stem cells are present in adults as well as children and preborn children, and research was (and is) done on both adult and embryonic stem cells. In the 1970s in the USA, guidelines were established that allowed for experimentation on human fetal tissue, although such practices had already been happening. President Ronald Regan later fought against this by stopping the funding of human embryo research by the government.
Stem Cell Research Today
Today, both adult and embryonic stem cell research are still practiced. It’s still relatively new, and there’s a great deal of excitement about the many developments that have come from it, but there is also a lot of concern and disagreement within the medical community when it comes to embryonic research. Embryonic stem cell research begins with IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), which produces a large number of embryos, often dozens at a time. These human embryos, after being harvested for stem cells, are killed and discarded.
For this reason, many people argue that adult stem cell research is not only preferable but the only ethical and moral way to continue. And while there is validity to the argument that stem cells harvested from unborn humans are ideal because they have the longest telomeres, people who make such cases generally see the goal for improved health (a laudable goal) as the most important thing, and do not concern themselves with the ethicality of their methods. However, any result, no matter how desirable it may be, cannot justify an action that is fundamentally evil, such an ending the life of a human being. (Note that most of the developments that have come from stem cell research resulted from adult stem cell research. Positive results of embryonic stem cell research are much fewer and less significant.)
Why Does This Matter in the World of Longevity and Anti-Aging Treatments?
The subject of telomeres and stem cell research is of particular interest to us in Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT provides hormone supplementation (usually through injections or creams) to people with a diagnosed deficiency of HGH (Human Growth Hormone), Testosterone, and others. Often, when people’s bodies age, they start to produce less of these vital hormones, which (depending on each specific person’s health) can cause problems. People with such deficiencies often suffer from a variety of symptoms, including weight gain, muscle decline, anxiety, sleeping problems, mental health issues, fatigue, and more. HRT often helps patients to overcome and reduce such symptoms by restoring hormone balance in the body.
For people suffering from such symptoms, the process of being diagnosed and looking for the right treatment can be very hard. It’s so important to do your research on these treatments and the sciences behind them. Trust your physician – they are certified experts who want to help you – but also test them. Ask lots of questions, and don’t use any medication or undergo any treatments unless you understand them thoroughly. After all, this is your health. Take charge of it.
The existence of telomeres is of great interest to us in the HRT and Anti-Aging world because we are always excited to find new ways to preserve health into old age, and if we can find ways to promote and maintain the length of telomeres (perhaps by finding ways to manage Telomerase), then maybe this will be another way to improve longevity and vitality, even for people who do not necessarily suffer from hormone deficiency. (HRT is a prescription treatment that is only available to patients who meet specific criteria, as they must be explicitly diagnosed with a lack of a particular hormone.)
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