How "reversible" is telomeric aging?

Author: Epel E.
Affiliation: University of California, San Francisco, Box 0848, 3333 Calif. St, Laurel Heights Suite 465, San Francisco, CA 94143.
Conference/Journal: Cancer Prev Res (Phila).
Date published: 2012 Oct
Other: Volume ID: 5 , Issue ID: 10 , Pages: 1163-8 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0370. , Word Count: 242

A critical question in human health is the malleability of telomere length. Telomere length, sampled at one point during adult life, is predictive of certain types of cancer and other immune and metabolic-related diseases. We now know from basic studies that the telomere/telomerase maintenance system plays a causal role in accelerating biologic aging and promoting disease processes. One can develop short telomeres for a multitude of reasons. Historical factors such as genetics, prenatal conditions, and early adversity, contribute to adult telomere length; however, current stress and lifestyle are also associated. If these modifiable predictors are causal factors in telomere shortening, there is a tremendous opportunity to improve maintenance and possibly even lengthen telomeres with behavioral interventions. This minireview discusses our current understanding of telomere lengthening and questions facing the field. Several small-scale stress reduction/wellness studies show promising findings, suggesting that cell aging can be slowed or reversed in vivo over short periods. Moreover, possible mechanisms are discussed, that take into account actual telomeric lengthening, such as that which occurs through telomerase-mediated elongation, or mechanisms resulting in "pseudo-telomeric lengthening" as might occur from changes in cell type distribution. There is a strong need for more translational clinical to bench research to address mechanistic questions in experimental models. In addition, well-designed intervention research that examines both telomeres and potential mediators of change can further enhance our understanding of malleability, mechanism, and clinical implications of telomere lengthening. Cancer Prev Res; 5(10); 1163-8. ©2012 AACR.
PMID: 23041472