Telomere Shortening in YOUTH!

Thomas Mahoney excelife at earthlink.net
Wed May 5 15:20:25 EST 1999

In article <372e20ea.99773327 at nntp.ix.netcom.com>, 
ufotruth at ix.netcom.com says...
>It now seems that telomere shortening, to at least some degree, does
>indeed occur even in young, healthy, and youthful individuals. 
>I wonder what would occur if *somehow* I could re-enlongate all of my
>telomeres (by the way I am 19 years old) to the lengths they were when
>I was an infant, if it would have *any* health benefits at *all*. 
>Best Regards,
>PS: Thomas Mahoney, please feel free to comment on this story.
>Office of Cancer Communications
>Building 31,Room 10A24
>Bethesda, MD 20892 
> National Institutes of Health
>April 29, 1999
>NCI Press Office
>(301) 496-6641 
> Press Release 
>Scientists Report Rapid Telomere Shortening in Infants 
>In the May issue of the journal Blood*, scientists report seeing rapid
>shortening of telomeres in young, healthy children. This month's
>finding builds on a growing body of work on telomeres, highly
>repetitive sequences of noncoding DNA that form the tip at each end of
>a chromosome. Telomeres are thought to protect chromosomes, like the
>plastic caps on the ends of shoe laces, keeping them from fraying and
>improperly recombining with other chromosomes during cell division. 
>Researchers first noticed over 25 years ago that telomeres shrink
>slightly in length after each cell division. Further studies led
>scientists to propose in 1990 that telomere shortening might be the
>molecular equivalent of aging within a cell. After completing several
>rounds of cell division, the telomeres become so short that they no
>longer are functional, signaling the cell to stop dividing and die of
>old age. 
>In recent years, several studies have generated strong evidence in
>adults to support this theory. However, few studies have looked at the
>rate of telomere shortening in young children, nor have any looked at
>the process in small children over several years, making this month's
>report important in helping to establish a baseline of information on
>the subject. 
>Steven Zeichner, M.D., Ph.D., a scientist at the National Cancer
>Institute (NCI) and lead author of the study, and his colleagues
>hypothesized that if rates of cell turnover vary during development,
>then telomere shortening -- as a measure of the aging process in cells
>-- should be greatest in small children. To test this idea, the
>scientists analyzed the rate of telomere shortening in nine children
>over three years. All of the children had HIV-positive mothers,
>although none of the children contracted the virus in utero. 
>The hypothesis turned out to be correct. The rate of telomere
>shortening in the children was on average 270 bases, or units, of DNA
>per year. In adults, the average annual rate is about 50 bases, or
>about five or sixfold less than small children, a strong indication
>that immune cells turn over faster in children than adults. 
>In addition, the scientists found that the changes in telomere length
>were unrelated to the activity of the enzyme telomerase, which can
>influence telomere shortening. They reported that levels of the enzyme
>varied and were in general low among the children. "This suggested to
>us that the changes in telomere length may indeed reflect the number
>of cell divisions that the cells had undergone," said Zeichner. 
>This finding provides an important new lead to explain why
>HIV-infected infants often progress more rapidly to AIDS than adults.
>The data suggest that the more rapid rate of cell division in small
>children gives the virus a larger pool of cells to infect. "This is
>still only a theory, but it provides a rational explanation for the
>higher blood levels of HIV that are seen in children and thus their
>more rapid progression to AIDS," said Dimiter Dimitrov, Ph.D., Sc.D.,
>also an NCI scientist and senior author of this study. 
>The finding that telomeres shorten rapidly in infants may also have
>some implications for our understanding of how the immune system
>develops. When a baby is born, its immune system is only partially
>developed. But, usually within a few years, the child's immune system
>has developed the same capacity as an adult to mount an immune
>response. The finding that in small children immune cells divide much
>faster than in adults suggests a way for the immune system to
>accelerate its growth and development. 
>"By replacing immune cells at a faster rate than adults, a small child
>rapidly develops immunity, allowing the immune system to mature
>quickly and protect the body from pathogens," said Zeichner. 
>* The title of the study is "Rapid Telomere Shortening in Children,"
>article dated May 1, 1999. The authors are Steven L. Zeichner, Paul
>Palumbo, YanRu Feng, Xiadong Xiao, Dennis Gee, John Sleasman, Maureen
>Goodenow, Robert Biggar, and Dimiter Dimitrov. 
># # #
>For more news and information about cancer, visit NCI's Web site for
>patients, the public and the mass media at: http://rex.nci.nih.gov.

This is an interesting study and confirms prior research showing 
differential telomeric shortening during aging, see; (Proc Natl Acad Sci 
U S A 1998 May 12;95(10):5607-5610 "The rate of telomere sequence loss 
in human leukocytes varies with age." Frenck RW Jr, Blackburn EH, 
Shannon KM).

During embryogenesis and early development this telomeric shortening is 
delayed by the activation of the enzyme telomerase, see; (Mol Hum Reprod 
1997 Sep;3(9):769-773"Developmental regulation of telomerase activity in 
human fetal tissues during gestation.", Ulaner GA, Giudice LC).

There appears to be some genetic or possibly hormonal control over the 
timing of the activation of telomerase both in gestation and in those 
cells that utilize this enzyme on a normal basis.  This is seen in the 
cells of women during the menstrual cycle, see; (Cancer Res 1997 Feb 
15;57(4):610-4. "Telomerase activity in human endometrium." Kyo S, et 

Similar to the results you have cited, the cells involved in 
menstruation also lose telomeric activity after menopause and these 
cells then experience telomeric loss, see; (Mol Hum Reprod 1998 
Feb;4(2):173-7, "Telomerase activity in the human endometrium throughout 
the menstrual cycle.", Yokoyama Y, et al).

The gist of all these studies is that there is a continuing regulation 
of telomeric length over the course of aging.  Those cells that do 
experience telomeric shortening may benefit from telomeric elongation 
therapy. Those cells that normally express telomerase for continuing 
replication may also benefit from a late term introduction of telomerase 
or its catalytic sub-component hTERT.

Attempts to use a general approach and elongate the telomeres of all 
cells may still have some unintended consequences that may be 
detrimental to the organism.  We shall see:-)

Thomas Mahoney, Pres.
Lifeline Laboratories, Inc.

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