The function of telomeres is often undermined or not entirely understood. Without a telomere in place of every chromosome strand, essential DNA would be lost every time a cell has to divide to sustain life. The telomeres instead get shorter so that the chromosome doesn’t need to lose valuable DNA.
There is a catch however; telomere shortening is irreversible since telomeres do not replicate the way cells do. This is why aging occurs which has led many scientists to believe that aging can be effectively delayed if telomeres can be made longer somehow and also made to sustain themselves.
People who have shorter telomeres generally have been believed to die younger (of course exceptions exist) and have also been known to be more susceptible to cancer and other diseases which have no cure beyond a certain point.
The stronger and longer the telomere is the more immunity the body will have and the longer it will be able to ward off disease, aging and tissue damage.
Why shortening occurs
When a cell needs to divide, it naturally creates copies of all its inherent genetic material so that nothing is lost during the replication process. When the material is being copied the chromosome opens and the telomere must become shorter in order to incorporate this change.
Two new strands are created and we have successful cell replication. However the telomere will be shorter and this means that aging is already taking place regardless of how slow the process is.
How This Can Be Counteracted
Although telomeres cannot reproduce, the injection of an enzyme called Telomerase can greatly help the process. What it does in simple terms is add bases to the exposed ends of the telomere protecting the chromosome. This means they will last longer and also not get short as quickly. Some research suggests they may not get short at all.
Although many factors contribute to aging, telomeres have been earmarked as the magic ingredient which is doing all the work and hence can be controlled to reduce the effects of aging and also to keep a person younger in every sense of the word. It may even improve life span and give a healthier life to people who suffer from terminal illnesses.
Telomerase is found in sperm cells and eggs and it keeps the DNA intact so that it can be passed on and this is where it can be extracted from although obtaining large doses is a challenge.