In 2009 I met the man who would become my husband and change my life forever. Meeting Kevin was the highlight of that year but coming in a distant second was an event that you may feel was more significant. In 2009 three people shared the ultimate prize, awarded for their work which shone new light on how we age and the power we have within ourselves to control the process. This anti-aging answer you will not find in a bottle.
In 2009 Elizabeth H Blackburn, Carol W Greider and Jack W Szostak won the Nobel Prize for their discovery “How chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase”
In 2009 three people told us why we age and what we can do about it.
Despite my fascination, I have to re-read this type of scientific literature many times to grasp it. I then have to get busy with a highlighter and rewrite it in my own words. The topic of telomeres is exciting and affects us all, but I do hope I don’t insult the three Nobel Prize winners with my incredibly simplified translation of their life’s work.
As human bodies, we are made up of organs. Organs are made of tissue, tissue is comprised of cells and each cell has a nucleus.
Inside the nucleus of a cell we have chromosomes. Chromosomes contain packets of information, this information is our genetic code, our DNA.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is that spiral ladder diagram you’ve seen before. Each rung of the ladder is a pair of nucleotides. Nucleotides are the units that store our unique information. Chromosomes are tightly coiled strands of DNA; we have 23 chromosomes from each parent.
To say it in reverse, chromosomes are strands of DNA. Chromosomes are found in the nucleus of cells, cells make up tissue and we have lots of tissue.
Think of a chromosome as a shoelace that has those plastic protective tips on the ends. Every piece of our data is stored in these shoelaces with plastic tips. The Nobel Prize was awarded for research on those plastic tips – our Telomeres.
GROWTH AND AGE
We all started from one single cell and for us to grow that cell had to duplicate and each cell after that had to duplicate (Mitosis). One parent cell divides into two daughter cells and each daughter makes copies of the information packets (chromosomes). A cell can only divide so many times (called the Hayflick limit) and when the cycle stops the cell dies. Changes in our skin and hair are annoying but there becomes a real problem when the cells of the immune system can no longer divide.
Chromosomes hold all our personal data and to ensure that information is copied successfully each chromosome has that plastic tip, that telomere. With each cell division the telomeres shorten in length and when a telomere becomes too short, the information (chromosomes) cant be copied and the cell becomes old and dies (apoptosis).
It’s the reduced length of the telomere that has been linked to the aging process. Telomeres protect our chromosomes and much like that shoe lace, problems arise when that plastic tip gives out.
Chronic stress reduces the length of telomeres. People who care for sick children showed a reduced telomere length. The shortening corresponded to the length of care and was not a function of the caregiver’s age. A young caregivers telomere reduced in length at the same rate of a person much older. On a promising and quite miraculous note, researchers were able to stop the telomere shortening by implementing stress management techniques. In some cases, just 12 minutes of meditation a day for two months was shown to protect telomere length. For parents of hospitalized children or for the long-term carers of autistic kids the implications are huge.
Ladies with cervical cancer were studied and the results were similar. The ladies were given both mental, and physical counseling and their symptoms improved. Dr. Nelson (University of California, Irvine) went one step further and upon reexamination, he found that the counseling had not only stopped the shrinkage, but it had also promoted telomere growth. The study participants still had cancer, that hadn’t changed, but they had longer telomeres at the end of the study than they did at the start!
These incredible results tell us how positive thinking, social support, belief, attitude – faith can dramatically help with health, healing and the aging process.
Telomere length is a function of length erosion and length addition. Stress, sickness, age will cause a telomere to shorten and it’s the enzyme Telomerase that is responsible for any growth.
Telomerase is found in fetal tissue, adult germ cells and in tumor cells. Body (somatic) tissue tends to age and die because of its very limited telomerase activity. If this enzyme (enzymes speed reactions) is activated, a cell will continue to divide. It’s called the “Immortal cell theory,” but it’s not as good as it sounds. The body as a whole is a system of regulators, brakes, and accelerators that are used together to find a place of balance. If we just slam on the accelerator it might seem great at first, but there will be a long-term price to pay. We see this with obvious behaviors such as very restricted dieting, excessive exercise or massive sleep deprivation. You might lose weight initially, hit a personal best or get that study paper in on time – but there will be consequences.
If telomerase can keep a cell dividing it might seem great for anti-aging but quite frightening if that cell is a cancer cell.
Cancer cells are malignant cells which divide and multiply to form a tumor; telomerase is found to be 10-20 times more active in a cancer cell than in a normal cell.
An immortal body with mere mortal disease.
What if we could activate telomerase activity in our aging body cells while turning it off in cancer cells?
The goal is not to live forever, but to live forever in great health, a dream that is one step closer to being a reality thanks to the Nobel Prize Winners of 2009.
Today 40 is the new 30 and someday maybe 100 will be the new 65. We live in exciting times that are pushing us to look beyond the physical.
In times of intense stress, it can be hard to hold a positive thought. One of those bestsellers told us how negative energy is 6 times stronger than positive energy. How one negative person can infect a whole office whereas one brave positive soul cannot. It is great to know that positive outcomes come from positive thoughts but in times of such stress it’s hard to go it alone.
With a plethora of best-selling books about awakening giants, thinking to grow rich and being better than good, this is not totally new to us. We pay thousands of dollars to be told how our thoughts create our reality and this is a giant size 16 step in that same direction.
This research will expand the role of structured support for the sick and for those caring for the sick. The undeniable proof that our thoughts can change us on a cellular level brings with it a new level of personal responsibility to be kind to ourselves and to care for others. When we feel powerless there is more we can do than just hand our loved ones over to the doctors. We can listen, give of our time and be of comfort. We now know that these acts are what keeps the shoelaces tied, they are what makes another step possible.
Belief besets attitude and attitude can literally turn back the hands of time.
Be kind to yourself.
More about Joanne HERE