This has been big week for telomeres in the news.
The biggest points should not surprise you since I have been writing about them for 10 years!
The first is finally a study that acknowledges that shorter telomeres are associated with a higher cancer risk. One of the news commentaries even uses my trademark phrase “take care of your telomeres.
I was getting so sick of ready high-level scientists pointing out that “cancer” can be associated with longer telomeres and then creating possible reasons why this may be so like the “Mutation Theory of Aging” which says you accumulate DNA mutations because you are getting older and the older you are the more chance for mutations.
While this may be theoretically true, if the telomeres are intact and functioning the way they are supposed to they will abort the cell long before it transforms.
Yes, everyone finally agrees, Take Care of Your Telomeres!
The next involves really bad press for a certain telomere company that will remain unnamed out of respect for the scientists who were/are affiliated with it. This company uses saliva to tell you your age and was ratted out by former employees who pointed to dirty lab conditions, errors, and bad science.
This has not stopped them from a massive internet campaign to sell their test which is by far the cheapest on the market. Sorry but cheap and telomere do not mix!
The reason why both of these news items are related is also really interesting.
I have told you that I don’t like the QPCR methods that most American companies use to measure telomeres. Mainly because the way overestimates the role of average telomere length. Normal telomere dynamics do not form a nice bell shape curve.
They are more like a mountain with a quick high spike on the right side and longer slower slope off the left. Off to the left (longer) is where average lengths wind up.
Median lengths (ala Life Length’s TAT) are on the peak to the left. There is usually about 2 thousand base pair difference and this leads to people believing and being told they are younger than they are biologically.
It also skews things like cancer cell telomere length off to the right making them “longer” hence the cancer is associated with longer telomeres. Now throw in the fact that cancer also splices telomeres from one chromosome to another and add this to the calculation of average and you have a misleading number.
I find it really hard to believe that a simple guy like me knows this and brilliant award-winning scientists do not.
Take care of your telomeres and if you are going to measure them don’t to to cheap it out and bank on inaccurate results!
Your life and your health are too important to leave to chance.