Scientists discover that longer telomeres denote better health

A discovery concerning telomeres, sections of DNA found in the final part of the chromosome, was carried out by a research group from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, a pediatric research institute in Melbourne.

By analyzing the DNA of 1800 children and their parents from various parts of Australia, the researchers, led by John Nguyen, have discovered that longer and larger telomeres turn out to be healthier than the shorter or “frayed” ones. Less healthy telomeres are in turn a characteristic sign of aging and diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

This is because these small sections of chromosome become a little smaller each time there is a cell division: the more time passes, the shorter they become.

To understand the concept, Nguyen brings up the shoelaces: the telomeres themselves can be compared to those hard plastic ends located at the end of the laces. If this end breaks, frays or otherwise gets damaged, the laces themselves begin to fray, failing in their functions.

The length of telomeres, according to Nguyen, is partly due to genetics but can also be influenced by environmental factors. However, other studies will have to be carried out to understand “the complex inheritance patterns of telomere length and the link between telomere shortening and disease.”