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What is a Telomere and What do Telomeres Do?

We’ve talked before about companies that are looking at solving that pesky problem we all have which is that we eventually die. The problem is that even if we can avoid cancer and heart attacks, at some point we just die because we get too old. If you think about every single problem we’re trying to solve with technology, this is the most important. This is why we’re interested in learning about something we call a telomere because telomeres play a critical role in aging.

What is a Telomere and What do Telomeres Do?

Here’s a diagram which shows what a telomere is:

Telomeres

So a telomere is a little cap on the end of a chromosome which you can think of like that little cap on the end of your shoelaces. We’ve all seen these before:

That little cap actually has a name – it’s called an “aglet”. So a telomere is a biological “aglet” that serves to protect the chromosome in much the same way an aglet protects a shoelace. Since many of us weren’t paying attention in biology class or (gasp) can’t remember a textbook definition we read 20 plus years ago, here’s a refresher on what a chromosome is:

A chromosome is a DNA molecule with part or all of the genetic material (genome) of an organism. In humans, each cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Twenty-two of these pairs, called autosomes, look the same in both males and females. The 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, differ between males and females.

So apparently the two genders aren’t equal? You mean to tell us there are biological differences between men and women that may help explain why they behave differently? That’s crazy talk.

Anyways, so it’s very important to protect these chromosomes because the cells in your body are always duplicating and they need the information those chromosomes contain. The problem is though, there’s a defect feature in the human body that causes your telomeres to get shorter and shorter every time your cells duplicate. When the telomeres reach a certain length (usually around end of your life), the cells decide to stop replicating which can cause you to die of various reasons. Therefore, the length of your telomeres is your biological age. Pretty straight forward.

Now here’s where some of you MBAs out there might spot a business opportunity here and say “why can’t we just figure out how to keep the telomeres from getting shorter“. Those excellent insights are why you get paid the big bucks. The medical world is indeed starting to look at ways we can keep your telomeres from shortening. One way is to avoid “stress, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet”. Fcuk that. The majority of our readers are Americans. Have you seen some of the first world problems we have to deal with on a daily basis? How about you just give us another pill to take every morning?

A Telomere Supplement to Lengthen Telomeres

Fortunately there’s a company working on that called T. A. Sciences and while we can’t find out who is funding them, they were founded in 2002 and claim to be “the leader in the field of cellular rejuvenation and age management through Telomerase Activation (TA)”. The company’s product is based on the cellular rejuvenation properties of a herbal extract compound called TA-65®. With over 10,000 people using this supplement already, we’re pretty sure they are raking in some serious dough. Why? Because the TA-65 supplement itself is ridiculously expensive (as you would expect such a supplement to be). A bottle of 90 pills costs $491 today on Amazon and according to the company “lasts 90 days if one pill is taken“.

Telomere Supplement

Well if this thing is supposed to help us live longer, we’re taking two a day just to make sure. That means we would be paying about $327 a month for the following benefits:

  • Fight aging with TA-65®- Telomerase Activator
  • Improves vision, sexual performance, increase in bone density and more…
  • TA-65 has been show to slow/reverse telomere shortening, and restore or improve cellular function
  • Improves energy and feelings of vitality, memory and mental ability
  • Improves appearance as related to skin, hair and nails

So in other words, you don’t get old as fast by taking these pills. How can we be sure that this pill actually keeps our telomeres from shortening? Well, for one they did the “first randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study to show telomeres getting longer in humans” which was released in March of 2016. The peer reviewed study took place over a period of 12 months with 97 men and women. Here are the results from the study:

Here is a link to the entire study if you want to read up on it a bit more. They were also sued – twice – a while back by ex employees who claimed they were engaged in deceptive marketing practices. They won both lawsuits and you can read a nice summary of that drama at a website they put up just for the occasion. Speaking of drama, you’ll definitely want to make a mental note to read about BioViva and Liz Parrish when you’re done with this article.

That’s great but if you decide to pay the $300 USD a month bill needed to keep your telomeres from shortening, how do you know it’s working? Just because they had a positive study doesn’t make us feel confident that we’re getting value out of this. If only there was a way to test the length of your telomeres before starting to take the pills and then after a year or two.

How can I test the length of my Telomeres?

As it turns out, there are at least a few ways to test the length of your telomeres. Several startups are actually offering genetic test kits that can test the length of your telomeres. The first company is one we first came across looking at genetic health and fitness tests which we largely concluded were about as useful for horoscopes. (Most of us could get stellar results by just actually going to the gym five days a week over a sustained period of time). The startup is called Titanovo and they offer a kit for $129 seen below:

If you want to use the promo code “NANALYZE” (no quotes) they’ll give you 10% off. The second company offering a telomere testing kit is called Teloyears and they’re at a price point that’s a bit more affordable. You can get one test for $89 or two tests for “now and later” which you can use to see if those expensive pills you bought from T.A. Sciences are working:

Few takeaways here. Firstly, we may have just showed you how to live longer so you’re welcome for that. Or it could be just a bunch of phooey in which case we warned you so. In either case, you can find out for yourself by just measuring your telomeres and seeing if this pill (or any other supplement promising the same benefits) actually works. For all you MBAs out there reading this, can’t you take CRIPSR and make something happen here? If you have a website, you can say you’re “using AI” and then get funded. Drop us a note when you have your new “lengthening telomeres with CRISPR using AI” venture off the ground and we’ll write about you ASAP.

If you want to just try this thing out without all that cost, here’s an intro set of lower dosage TA-65 pills for around $75 last time we checked:

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