How to Lengthen Telomeres Through the Latest Medical Interventions
Telomeres probably aren’t part of your daily conversations. But if you’re interested in slowing down aging and preventing age-related diseases, it’s time to learn about them. Here’s what you need to know about telomeres and how they fight aging.
What’s the importance of lengthening telomeres? They’re the key to slowing down or preventing cellular aging, which is where all aging begins. As individual cells age and die, they cause the inflammation and tissue damage responsible for your body’s aging.
As a specialist in age-management medicine, Dr. Jelena Petkovic, PAC, MMS, DHSc, stays up to date with the latest treatments and includes them as part of a comprehensive care plan that targets each person’s unique needs.
Let’s talk about telomeres
Telomeres are structures at the end of each strand of DNA, where they protect and preserve the integrity of your genetic information. Despite their essential role, telomeres shorten every time your DNA replicates to produce new tissues.
The slow but progressive shortening of telomeres is responsible for cellular aging and, ultimately, cellular death. When telomeres get too short, aging cells release inflammatory substances that are implicated in degenerative and chronic diseases, such as heart disease.
Your body produces an enzyme, telomerase, that counteracts cellular aging. Telomerase lengthens telomeres by restoring some of their building blocks. Though telomerase can slow aging, your body doesn’t produce enough to stop the process.
Additionally, developing a chronic disease, living with chronic stress, eating an unhealthy diet, leading a sedentary life, and other lifestyle factors reduce telomerase activity. As a result, cellular aging accelerates.
The search for medical treatments
Researchers are hard at work trying to find new medical treatments to lengthen telomeres. For example, a drug originally created to inhibit the hepatitis B virus is being studied for its ability to boost telomerase.
A team at Stanford University discovered a way to insert RNA into telomeres, causing them to lengthen for a short time. And a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center identified molecules (called PAPD5 inhibitors) that reverse cellular aging by restoring telomeres.
However, these discoveries haven’t been translated into treatments because they need to go through clinical trials.
Treatments to lengthen telomeres
Here’s a rundown of the current and emerging treatments for lengthening telomeres:
TA-65 is a natural compound extracted from astragalus, a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine. Astragalus contains ingredients that maintain or rebuild telomeres by activating telomerase. This nutritional supplement is specially formulated to make it through your digestive tract and into the bloodstream, where it reaches cells throughout your body.
Danazol is a hormone medication commonly used to treat gynecological conditions like endometriosis. However, the same sex hormones modulate telomerase activity, making it virtually the only treatment currently available for telomerase diseases.
Telomerase diseases include various health conditions associated with genetic defects in telomeres and telomere repair. For example, bone marrow failure (dyskeratosis congenita), acquired aplastic anemia, acute myeloid leukemia, pulmonary fibrosis, and some liver diseases are telomere diseases.
Centella asiatica, an herb with a long history in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, is a potential treatment for lengthening telomeres. A pharmaceutical company recently produced an extract from the plant (DLBS1649) that boosts telomerase activity. In fact, studies show that it produces an 8-fold increase in telomerase activity.
Oleanolic acid, another emerging treatment, comes from plants in the Oleaceae family, which includes the olive plant. In addition to its ability to fight inflammation, oleanolic acid causes a 6-fold boost in telomerase.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that fight inflammation, lower triglycerides (fats) in your bloodstream, and ensure healthy, functioning cells. Multiple studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can lengthen telomeres.
Though larger clinical trials are needed to confirm the role of omega-3 fatty acids in protecting telomeres, they’re vital for your overall health and should be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Some of the top sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, trout, tuna, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)
HBOT has not been FDA-approved for treating telomere-based diseases or cellular aging. However, a small study found that 60 daily HBOT treatments significantly increased telomere length.
To learn more about the most recent treatments for lengthening telomeres and other anti-aging therapies, book your Health Triage call with Dr. Jelena today.