What are the medical consequences of elongated or shortened telomeres?

What happens if telomeres are too long?

Our cellular machinery results in a little bit of the telomere becoming lopped off each time cells replicate their DNA and divide. As telomeres shorten over time, the chromosomes themselves become vulnerable to damage. Eventually the cells die.

What could damaged DNA and shortened telomeres cause you?

Mortality rates. A 2011 review suggests that markers indicating DNA damage and decreased telomere function increase with age. This could be significant: A 2003 study found a link between shorter telomeres and an increased rate of death from heart disease and infectious diseases.

What happens if the telomere is damaged?

Eventually enough of the telomere is lost that the chromosomes start to get damaged. The cell turns on its DNA repair machinery and slows everything down. This causes fast growing cells to slow down and to eventually age and stop growing. (Chromosome damage can also cause a cell to kill itself.)

Which could be a consequence of telomeres that have gotten too short?

When the telomere becomes too short, the chromosome reaches a ‘critical length’ and can no longer be replicated. This ‘critical length’ triggers the cell to die by a process called apoptosis?, also known as programmed cell death.

What do longer telomeres mean?

The length of telomeric DNA shortens with each cell division and when it reaches below a critical limit, the cell undergoes replicative senescence or apoptotic cell death. The length of telomeric DNA determines the lifespan of a cell in culture.

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Does telomerase cause aging?

People with rare diseases characterized by shortened telomeres or telomerase mutations seem to age prematurely, although some tissues are more affected than others. When mice are engineered to lack telomerase completely, their telomeres progressively shorten over several generations.