Telomeres, Chronic Pain and Accelerated Aging

chronic painA new study has linked the pain syndrome known as Fibromyalgia to shortened telomeres (biologic time clocks). I have already begun to get emails asking me if TA-65 will help this, due to the most recent information.

Before I answer that question, a little background is in order. As you hopefully know already, the telomere is a small segment of non-coding DNA at the end of the chromosome.  Originally thought to be junk, it was found to be intimately involved in “cell cycle” regulation.  Things like the ability of the cell to replicate and make more of itself, as well as many functions associated with cellular (and organismal) aging, were eventually tied to telomere length.

Things like overall longevity, healthspan, and the associations of all kinds of diseases of aging, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression and stress, were seen with shortened telomeres*. In some cases, they are clearly biomarkers of aging and disease. In some cases, they drive aging and disease.

In all cases that we know of so far, longer, healthier telomeres are associated with improved prognosis in the middle and older age groups that get these diseases. And of course, they are part of living longer.  In populations that have “allelic variations”, which are basically mutations, in most cases that express increased amounts of telomerase (the enzyme that lengthens telomeres), there is a significant likelihood you will find the extremely long-lived and more healthy individuals.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a vexing, chronic pain syndrome that seems to have many causes and just as many treatments. In addition to antidepressants and numerous dietary and exercise prescriptions, there is a growing feeling among many people who have treated it, that it is a mitochondrial disorder.

The mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses, appear to become dysfunctional in this syndrome and facilitate pain transmission via the effects of the toxic metabolites they produce and can no longer handle. Basically, a free radical trigger like oxygen or nitrogen accumulates and is not appropriately balanced or handled, and a series of events result that cause pain transmission to occur at a lower threshold.  The attendant illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is even easier to explain by this mechanism, since decreased mitochondrial function is associated with lowered energy output and fatigue.  This is what you see as your parents age and slow down as well!

If you live in Europe or Japan and have CFS or FM and seek treatment, you will most likely receive Coenzyme Q10 in its reduced form, in doses of around 400mg a day as starters.  This is also the dose I give my elderly patients complaining of fatigue (200mg 2X a day or 400mg at once). Here in the US, most doctors avoid using supplements for treatment, still clinging to anti-depressants and lifestyle modifications, which if they work at all, are the result of the person slowly healing themselves by avoiding excess energy expenditure and healing their mitochondria!

So, the question comes around to treatment.  I always started with Coenzyme Q10 and then moved into B Vitamins.  When TA-65 came along much later (2009), its energizing properties were of great use to some of my patients with CFS.  I never did an official study though, and it was not part of our soon-to-be-released TA-65 survey questions.

Still, the telomere seems to have some major sway over mitochondrial behavior.  Dr Ron DePinho, now at MD Anderson Cancer Center, has shown the likely involvement of telomere length directly affecting mitochondrial energy generation, biogenesis, and mutation rate.  So, it’s highly likely that anything that improves the health and length of the telomeres like TA-65 should be of great help in CFS.

The other thing to keep in mind is the modification of the way the body deals with stress.  Our Nobel Laureate, Liz Blackburn and her colleague Elisa Epel, have done several studies that show telomere length correlates with perceived stress levels.  Others have shown the association with depression.

The key word here is “perception”. We all know people who have had what most of us would term a hard life, physically and mentally, but live long and happy lives. We all know people who fall apart at the slightest provocation and respond poorly to minimal stresses. Often referred to as a person’s “nature” (happy, sad, stoic, etc), these correlations with biologic changes have made doctors uncomfortable since they are not easily quantifiable. Liz Blackburn used urinary excretions of stress metabolites to give this kind of perception a quantifiable and valid number. They also found cortisol drops over time, instead of rising, giving credence to the concept of “adrenal burnout”. Lowered cortisol or inappropriate cycles of cortisol secretion can allow the chronic, low grade, self-targeting inflammation we know is associated with many diseases of “aging” to rise and run rampant.

If you’ve gotten this far in this blog with me, then you will probably not be surprised by the following comment: Candice Pert, Bruce Lipton and Abraham Hicks are right! How you handle things and what you think about has a lot to do with what goes on inside your body!!!

I am now in my 4th year of taking TA-65. There have been a few times when I stopped it for a week or two. No More! I cannot afford anything less than maximum drive and energy in my life!


*One final comment on the article:

Since the article mentions “biologic age”, I would hope the method used to determine telomere length included both median and percentage short telomeres, since the latter is really the only assay that can comment on biologic age. Short telomeres drive aging and cellular dysfunction and currently the “cut off” is in the 3KB range. Short telomeres are unseen in typical QPCR and FLO FISH assays, which also have poor accuracy and reproducibility. They can easily be at a critical value, buried within the data of median telomere length and often do not correlate well with median or mean telomere length at all. The veracity of small studies especially, could be markedly improved by using HT-QFISH technology developed by Maria Blasco that has been commercially available for over three years now. In its absence, the findings of any telomere study that is looking at individuals in small numbers, is questionable. The median telomere length is also obtained by this technique and it correlates well with other technologies.

If you are serious about telomere length measurements for your own personal use, then go to and get the life length assay done. If you are already on TA-65, any future telomere tests you do should be done with this test.

Reference quote from the article which appeared in Anesthesiology News on-line: “Patients were categorized as experiencing high levels of pain (BPI ≥5; n=30) or lower levels of pain (BPI<5; n=31). Women who scored at least a 5 on the BPI—the cutoff for “high” levels of pain—were more likely to have shorter telomeres regardless of their chronological age (F=5.39;P=0.024). “This difference,” Dr. Hassett said, “represents approximately five years of aging.” That estimate is based on a previous study that linked the deterioration of telomeres to time (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1998;95:5607-5610).”

5 thoughts on “Telomeres, Chronic Pain and Accelerated Aging”

  1. Whenever I get more “blessed” financially, I plan on jumping on this. At the same time I’m gonna keep a lookout for more economical ways to activate telomerase!! But I really look forward to the fish oil either way! Therapeutic doses, 12 a day at least!

  2. I agree that a multi-approach to what causes our bodies to age needs more study. Modern lifestyles are not the best and we can’t trust our food sources because of what is done to it prior to getting it home. I am entering my golden years and I intend to do it healthy

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