What your telomeres say about your health
Telomeres shorten with age

Telomeres shorten with age. While we can't stop that, we now can track their exact length because it is the shortest of them all the need watching the closest. And we can do something about the speed at which they shorten as Li Shang and Javier Koh explain in our podcast. // Credit: Javier Koh

In this episode of MEDICUS – the Podcast, we meet two scientists to go fishing. But instead of heading out to sea to cast their lines, their “ocean” is a small tube in which they fish for specific genetic sequences that mark the ends of our chromosomes. Much like the plastic caps at the end of shoelaces, the sequences they hunt for, called telomeres, make sure that our genetic assembly instructions don’t unravel as our cells replicate.

Today, we know that these caps not only hold us together at the genetic seams, but that they erode with time and therefore play a vital role in ageing—their length is an indication of how many times our cells have replicated, and by extension how old we are biologically. But even though we’ve known about these caps for forty years, using them to help us live longer or at least healthier for longer has been an elusive goal.

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Joining us on the show to talk about telomeres and their own latest research are:

  • Li Shang, an associate professor with the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Programme at Duke-NUS; and
  • Javier Koh, a Duke-NUS PhD graduate and research fellow in Li’s lab

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