At Spain's National Cancer Research Centre, María Blasco, a 45-year-old molecular biologist and one of the world's leading telomere researchers, claims that by measuring the telomeres (the protective caps) on the ends of chromosomes, she can predict how long a person will live, reportsThe Guardian.
Blasco, who is also one of the co-founders of the Life Length company which is offering the tests, says that short telomeres do not just provide evidence of aging, they also cause it. Often compared to the plastic caps on a shoelace, there is a critical level at which the fraying becomes irreversible and triggers cell death.
Blasco says: "Short telomeres are causal of disease because when they are below a [certain] length they are damaging for the cells. The stem cells of our tissues do not regenerate and then we have ageing of the tissues."
Eventually, so many of the telomeres are short that some key part of the human body may stop working. The research is still in its early days, but extreme stress has been linked to telomere shortening.
Originally set up to help researchers and the pharmaceutical, health food and cosmetics industries test the impact of their products on telomeres, the flood of individual requests has caught Blasco's still tiny company by surprise.
But the test is available, as of this month, via doctors in Spain and Portugal and there are plans to make it easier to carry out in the UK and the US as soon as possible.
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