Like the plastic tips at the end of a shoelace (also known as aglets), telomeres are present at the end of a living things chromosome to keep them from fraying and tangling on to one another. Scientists often compare them to aglets because of how similar their purpose is. If chromosomes end up sticking to other chromosomes, it might result to cell malfunctions that can increase the risks of getting diseases and even shortening life spans.
Telomeres allow chromosomes to replicate properly during cell division. It protects the DNA from being damaged during this process. Every time a replication is taking place, the chromosomes are shortened by about 25-200 bases per replication. Because of telomeres, it prevents this problem from happening by taking the blow in place of the chromosome, thus making it shorter but leaving the DNA undamaged.
Why are Telomeres important?
Chromosomes that do not have telomeres will fuse together and cause cell corruption resulting to cancer, cell death and malfunction. It will look like a broken DNA and the cell will try to fix that. Cells that are trying to fix what isn’t broken will stop dividing and eventually die. This can lead to many serious health problems. They are the only ones capable of protecting the chromosomes and ensuring its stability. Without telomeres, malfunction occurs and cells gradually die.
The shortening of Telomeres
Because of its capability to protect the chromosome while the cells replicate, it sacrifices a part of it resulting to the term “shortening”. The more the cell divides, the shorter the telomeres become until the telomeres “die” and there is nothing to protect the chromosomes anymore. This can lead to cells dying because it can no longer divide itself. This causes the cells to mature and it is currently known as cell senescence. Because of the repetitive shortening of telomeres, DNA damage is triggered and causes senescence.
What will happen to your body if the Telomeres are shortened?
As mentioned above, when a cell divides, a bit of the telomere is lost at the end of the chromosome. Eventually, a chromosome becomes damaged if enough of the telomere is already lost. This causes fast growing cells to slow down and stop growing. Scientists and researchers propose that telomere loss can lead to diabetes and dementia because it affects how mitochondria work.
How to know your biological age
Telomere testing is a good way of knowing your biological age. There are many companies that can help you with this test by finding out the length of your telomere. They can analyse if you are susceptible to diseases and they can find out more about your health and life span. From there, they can help you plan in improving your overall health and lifestyle.
Not everybody is interested in knowing more about their current health unless they start to feel something not right. Being able to know more about yourself and the way your body works can help you in improving your lifestyle by breaking bad habits and living a healthy life.