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Born to age?

Are some people just born to age faster than others? A new study suggests that might be the case.

Nilesh Samani of the University of Leicester in Britain and colleagues analyzed more than 500,000 variations in nearly 3,000 people's genes and found that those with a certain variation near a gene called TERC tended to have shorter "telomeres."

Telomeres are molecular structures at the ends of chromosomes, which carry genes inside cells. Telomeres are often likened to the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces that keep them from unraveling. Every time a cell divides, the telomeres get a little shorter. The shorter the telomeres, the faster cells are believed to age. They are therefore considered markers for aging.

The new finding indicates that some people are born with genes that make them predisposed to the diseases of aging, essentially making them age more quickly than other people.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, those with certain variations of the TERC gene had telomeres that appeared to make them biologically about three or four years older than their chronological ages. TERC is involved in the production of telomerase, which helps repair telomeres. It could be that people born with this variation were exposed to lower levels of telomerase in the womb, essentially making them biologically several years older than other people.

Obviously, much more research is needed to confirm and explore the findings. But the researchers say they could lead to new insights into aging and perhaps a way to identify people who are more prone to the diseases of aging. That might lead to doing more to help stave off the decline.

By Rob Stein  |  February 10, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Aging  
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So, when will we have a treatment available to lengthen our stubby telomeres?

Posted by: mhoust | February 10, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Age is only old IF you make it that way. Think of age as the manifestation of our life-long battle with atrophy. Each of us makes choices every day that effect the balance of atrophy in our lives; the food we eat, the exercise we do or don't do, how we entertain ourselves all go together to produce what we are each and every day, young or old.

Posted by: 4blazek | February 10, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Science is increasingly devoted to discovering ways to counter our stressed out, sedentary lifestyles by modifying our genes or bodily processes. Only 18 months ago it was announced by Dr. Sinclair at Harvard that Transmax resveratrol, a commercial extract of a red wine molecule produced by scientists at biotivia, switches on the SirT-1 anti-aging gene and prevents the normal diseases of aging. Then scientists reported that a drug called Aircar that had been around for decades is capable of making sedentary mice into olympic contenders by modifying their muscles and increasing their endurance. Now additional genetic clues to aging have been discovered. If you can make it to 2020 in good shape there is every possibility that you will live well past the age of 120 years, given the developments in anti aging.

Posted by: james69 | February 10, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

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