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Why measure Telomeres?

Telomeres are the caps at the end of each DNA strand; a bit like caps on the end of shoelaces, to protect the strand from unraveling and sticking together. Technically speaking, telomeres are the TTAGGG repetitive stretches at the end of our chromosomes. With each cell division, telomeres become progressively shorter, limiting the number of times a cell can divide. When the length of telomeres reaches a critically short length, the cells stop dividing and enter a state of cell arrest (i.e., senescence), which is one of the hallmarks of aging. The rate of telomere shortening can be dependent on stress associated with adverse life experiences and can impact one’s health in later years. There is a large degree of natural variation in telomere length depending on the activity of an enzyme called telomerase, which adds length to telomeres. Telomeres are the longest when we are born and with age and stress exposure, gradually shorten when new cells are made until the cell cannot replicate anymore; the cellular equivalent of aging. Studies show that longer telomere’s are associated with healthy aging while shorter telomeres are associated with chronic diseases and early mortality. The Biomarker Core Lab now offers researchers an opportunity to measure telomere length and track the cellular age in their samples.