Sunday, November 29, 2009

Meditation, Stem Cells and Telomeres

I have been coming across telomeres from many different sources in my studies as of late.
Telomeres are sections of genetic material at the end of each chromosome whose primary function is to prevent chromosomal “fraying” when a cell replicates. As a cell ages, its telomeres become shorter. Eventually, the telomeres become too short to allow cell replication, the cell stops dividing and will ultimately die - a normal biological process.  for an animation about telomeres click here
Telomere degradation can be controlled by low calorie diets, reducing oxidative stress, and getting optimal amounts of sleep.  For more on how to preserve telomere length click here.

Telomerase is an enzyme that helps protect telomeres:
Telomerase, also called telomere terminal transferase, is an enzyme made of protein and RNA subunits that elongates chromosomes by adding TTAGGG sequences to the end of existing chromosomes. Telomerase is found in fetal tissues, adult germ cells, and also tumor cells. Telomerase activity is regulated during development and has a very low, almost undetectable activity in somatic (body) cells. Because these somatic cells do not regularly use telomerase, they age. The result of aging cells is an aging body. If telomerase is activated in a cell, the cell will continue to grow and divide. This "immortal cell" theory is important in two areas of research: aging and cancer. 
Telomerase has been detected in human cancer cells and is found to be 10-20 times more active than in normal body cells. This provides a selective growth advantage to many types of tumors. If telomerase activity was to be turned off, then telomeres in cancer cells would shorten, just like they do in normal body cells. This would prevent the cancer cells from dividing uncontrollably in their early stages of development. In the event that a tumor has already thoroughly developed, it may be removed and anti-telomerase therapy could be administered to prevent relapse. In essence, preventing telomerase from performing its function would change cancer cells from "immortal" to "mortal".   To watch an animation of telomerase click here.
In the interview below stem cell researcher Dr. Taylor talks about Telomeres.  See the Radio Program  Stem Cells Untold Stories  that is interesting and exciting all by itself.  Now there is an affordable blood test to measure telomeres.   But wait....

Stem cells are even more fascinating and are another front in aging and cancer research.
Stem Cells are cells found in most, if not all, multi-cellular organisms. They are characterized by the ability to renew themselves through mitotic cell division and differentiating into a diverse range of specialized cell types.
Dr. Taylor has gained renown for regrowing rat hearts.  Just to give you a little tidbit from the interview:  She tells the story of the research she did with a long-time meditator in the Tibetan buddhist tradition.
"...[Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard] and a number of his colleagues meditate, and as they meditate they measure differences in their brainwaves. Right? And I basically said I would predict that those very same things that when you meditate and you have positive brainwave changes would also have an effect on your stem cells. He very graciously, and this is an N of one, let us measure cells in his blood before and after meditation. And what we found was a huge increase in the number of positive stem cells in blood. Largest increase I've ever seen after 15 minutes of meditation."
I found this absolutely stunning!  It says to me we are in control of far more than we think we are!  Not only with telomeres but now with stem cells! Intrigued by all this I dug a little deeper (as I do)  and  found a most interesting blog post by a man who cured himself of 4 bouts of bone cancer including having 2 stem cell transplants.  All this occurred in the early 1990's and he wrote this post in early 2009.   This man appears to be able to effect his stem cells with his practice and probably his telomeres too.  He writes:
"When I was diagnosed with Stage Four bone lymphoma cancer in 1991, I read everything I could about people who had survived supposedly hopeless cases of the deadly disease. One common thread ran through the survivor stories: People who had beaten aggressive, late-stage instances of the disease had found ways to use their minds to help their bodies heal. So I learned how to meditate, and how to use visualizations to help my immune system attack the cancer cells. And against all odds, I survived six months of an intense regime of chemotherapy and came out cancer free."  For the rest of his story click here.
The science of cancer and the experience of meditation, qi gong and yoga can have an amazing impact, far more than one would think. 
As Benjamin Franklin said,  "Energy and persistence conquer all things."