Telomeres are structures at the end of our chromosomes that shorten every time a human cell divides. The length of an individual's telomeres is closely associated with their biological age. Research suggests that control of telomere length has the potential to treat many diseases associated with aging, and possibly to allow humans to live at a physiologically "young" age beyond the current theoretical maximum human lifespan of 125.
In 1998, A team of scientist at Geron Corporation added the gene for telomerase to normal human cells by use of a plasmid, and using these cells, created a line of telomerase-positive cells. They found that cells from this line were able to divide indefinitely, without entering replicative senescence as an unmodified cell culture would. This demonstrated that normal human cell lines could be made immortal.
What are telomeres? At both ends of every DNA strand in a human cell is a telomere. Telomeres prevent chromosomes from becoming frayed, fusing into rings, or binding with other DNA. (Think: the protective cap that protects shoelaces from unraveling). Scientists have noticed that cells stop reproducing when the telomere becomes too short. By protecting telomeres, we are effectively able to slow down the aging process and ensure that DNA and genetic features remain intact for longer.
What causes telomere shortening? As part of your body’s normal aging process, each time a cell divides the telomeres in your DNA get shorter. Add oxidative stress to the mix, and telomeres shorten even more rapidly. Oxidative stress is the effect of destructive reactions in your body’s cells caused by too many free radicals or atoms/molecules that have unpaired electrons. In their search for an electron to make them whole, they destroy other cells. Free radicals come from environmental toxins, such as pollution, chemicals, drugs and radiation, and even occur naturally in your own body when you exercise. Antioxidants fight free radicals and stem the causes of oxidative stress, but a key combination is needed to reduce the effects of oxidative stress on your telomeres.