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What are telomeres?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Telomeres are the tips of your chromosomes. They're much like the tips of a shoelace, and with general wear and tear, they can shorten and fray, causing age-related health issues, such as memory loss. Help keep your telomeres -- and memory -- sharp with stress reduction, brain games, and regular exercise.

Telomeres are repetitive strings of DNA. They are found at the ends of chromosome pairs in cells. Telomeres are like the plastic ends on shoelaces that keep the laces from fraying. They protect chromosomes in the same way. Each time a cell divides, the telomere on the end of each chromosome pair is shortened. Eventually, the telomeres are depleted, and the cell dies. Scientists studying aging are researching whether a cell's lifespan can be extended by adding a protein called telomerase to cells. This protein, found in abnormal cells like tumors, contains an RNA template that can produce new telomeres on the ends of chromosomes.

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