The curious case of telomeres

Telomeres are the “protective caps” found on the end of chromosomes, and they are important to preserve the genetic information encoded in chromosomes during the process of cell division. The protection of genetic material is of paramount importance so that it can express all the genes properly and avoid the wayward deterioration that could lead to be a potential cancerous cell.

The aglets of our genome
A simple way to understand the role of telomeres is to consider them as the aglets of our genome. Shoelaces have aglets to protect the lace ends and keep them from fraying. Similarly, telomeres are the protecting tips at the end of DNA molecules and help in stabilization, and give protection against the chromosomal recombination or fusion. With every cell division, telomeres gradually become shorter, thus exhibiting a mitotic clock phenomenon, and ultimately reaching a critical point which brings the cell to senescence (the organic process of growing older, which we’ve touched on before).

It has been proposed that telomeres shorten with age or with the development of disease, depending on the number of cell divisions. Regardless of the association with longevity, telomere length warrants further investigation. It is a bizarre question; are shorter telomeres just predictive of cancers and other disease processes, or are unhealthy body conditions and disease processes actually responsible for the shorter telomere lengths? However, lifestyle factors including exercise and diet have shown a considerable effect on telomere lengths.

Physical activity as an anti-ageing trigger
Physical activity has been hailed as one of the important anti-ageing triggers in the general population. Evidence suggests that endurance exercise could maintain the telomere lengths in older people compared with their sedentary peers. Even the telomere lengths of older active people  are comparable to active young adults.

The telomere length and their role as anti-ageing precursors depend on nature and amount of exercise. Irrelevant of cell type, moderate physical activity levels may provide a protective effect on telomere length compared to both low and high physical activity. However, aerobic exercise at 80-90% maximal capacity may help to keep telomere lengths at youthful levels in leukocytes (white blood cells). In skeletal muscles, telomere lengths could be compromised in response to strenuous exercise (lifting heavy weights) or exercise-induced fatigue.

Ultimately, telomere length plays a pivotal role in the process of ageing, and physical activity could help to maintain them, and provide an important tool for healthy long living.

For more information about telomeres and their role in ageing process, see this video from 2009 Nobel laureate Professor Elizabeth Blackburn (Nobel Prize in Medicine):

Written by Javaid Nauman, Post doctor at CERG. 

This entry was posted in 4x4, Aging, Exercise, Fitness, Genetics, In English, Public health, Video by CERG. Bookmark the permalink.

About CERG

The Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) seeks to identify the key mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of physical on cardiac health in the context of disease prevention and treatment. Named the K.G. Jebsen Center for Exercise in Medicine under Professor Ulrik Wisløff's leadership in 2011, CERG uses both top-down and bottom-up approaches to combat lifestyle-related disease.

1 thought on “The curious case of telomeres

  1. You will find that there are many benefits of aerobic exercise which you will want to explore as much as possible. Those who are looking to get in shape will need to consider doing certain aerobic exercises which can help with losing weight and slimming down. The great thing about this type of exercise is that there are so many different ways you can do it, so you can change it up every once in a while. If you are determined to shed some of those extra pounds, you will definitely want to take the time to see what your options are when it comes to aerobic exercise.-

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