Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences found at the end of chromosomes, and they play a vital role in regulating aging. With each cell division, the telomeres gradually shorten, until they reach a critical length. As telomeres shorten, they can no longer protect the chromosome ends from damage, which can lead to genomic instability and cellular dysfunction. This will eventually lead to the cell stops to divide, and entering a state of senescence, which is a permanent growth arrest. Accumulation of senescent cells in the body has been linked to a range of negative health outcomes.
One of the main reasons senescent cells are considered bad is because they can contribute to chronic inflammation, also known as "inflammaging." Chronic inflammation has been linked to a range of age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurological disorders. In addition to promoting inflammation, senescent cells can also impair tissue regeneration and contribute to age-related functional decline. Senescent cells can release enzymes that break down the extracellular matrix, which is an important component of tissues such as skin, bone, and cartilage. This can impair tissue regeneration and contribute to age-related functional decline, such as decreased mobility and increased frailty. Finally, senescent cells are thought to contribute to the development of cancers. Senescent cells can secrete growth factors that promote the growth of nearby cancer cells.
Oxidative stress and inflammation can accelerate telomere shortening and increase the likelihood of cellular dysfunction and senescence.
So it is obvious that telomere length is a critical factor in regulating aging and cellular function. Maintaining telomere length and protecting telomeres from damage may offer a potential strategy for preventing or delaying age-related diseases and promoting healthy aging.
The good news is that natural remedies exist to extend the telomeres and thereby counteract their shortening. For example, a review of 44 published scientific studies by Gutlapalli and colleague in 2020 (Cureus 2020, 12(11)) concluded that resveratrol had pro-telomerase effects which could be a useful therapeutic add-on drug to prevent cardiovascular disease. Other natural products and herbal remedies that counteract inflammation and oxidative stress ca also have counteract telomere shortening.
Staying physically active will also counteract telomere shortening along with many other benefits. A recent review of 43 articles reporting on randomized controlled trials, and observational or interventional studies by Schellnegger and colleagues in 2022 (Sports Med Open 2022, 8(1):111) concluded that physical activity with regular aerobic training, including high intensity training can contribute to preserving telomere length.