Cell Sense is a research study being conducted by Telome Health to learn more about telomere length, and the natural rate of change over time, and how it varies with age and lifestyle. The aim of the study is to determine the average telomere length for different age groups in a healthy, San Francisco Bay Area population. We will be looking at telomere lengths of people in the age groups of 20-79 over a one-year period, to determine the age-associated ranges of telomere length, and the change in telomere length over time.
Telomere length reflects physiological age (as opposed to chronological age) as well as health status, since short telomeres accelerate age-related decline in the body. We believe there are benefits of knowing your telomere length and rate of aging, in that it may provide knowledge about your disease risk, and help you take control of your health.
Thus, your participation in this study may help us inch closer to answering two important questions. First: what is the normal telomere length in a healthy, adult population? Second: how does the average telomere length in an individual vary over the period of a year, while maintaining the same lifestyle and health behaviors? The rate of change may be important, as it is a modifiable index of aging.
We are recruiting people without medical conditions, between the ages of 20 to 59 years of age. However, if you are within the ages of 60 – 79, and have common diseases of aging and medication use, this does not exclude you from the study. To be eligible, you should not smoke. Also, you should not be taking more than 3 different kinds of supplements and no more than 1000mg of omega 3s (not counted among the three supplements). Further, we ask that people be relatively stable in their health behaviors during the duration of the study. This means, we will only include people who are not planning on any very dramatic health behavior change over the next year (eg, gluten free, atkins or liquid diet, bariatric surgery for weight loss etc). It will still be OK to start or alter your exercise regimen and will not preclude your participation in the study.
If you wish to participate, you will be required to complete a set of questionnaires about your general health, health behaviors and psychological function. You will also be required to donate a blood and saliva sample to test the length of your telomeres. Three visits to a Bay Area facility will be required. After the initial “baseline” visit, there will be a second visit at 6 months and a third at 12 months. Each visit should take approximately 1.5 hours.
Telomeres are located at the tips of our chromosomes, and play an important function during the replication process. Imagine a shoelace with the protective tip at each end (aglets). The telomere is similar to “the tip or aglet” and the chromosome to the shoe lace. As we grow old, telomere length shortens as a natural consequence of the aging process. When they become shorter than a critical length, the damaged DNA initiates a series of reactions which can contribute to disease and death. In the general population, short telomeres may provide a measure of disease risk in multiple tissue and organ systems in the body.
Chronic psychological stress, toxins, infections and different diseases seem to shorten telomere lengths. Thus, unlike the rest of the genomic DNA, which is generally unchanged throughout life, telomeres are unique in that they can be dynamically altered by telomerase, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Telomeres shorten in a “dose responsive fashion,” serving as a cumulative measure of these exposures, and short telomeres inform us about both disease risk and likely response to certain drugs and interventions.