Thursday, March 7, 2013

Telomere Length Linked to Catching a Cold

It has been tested and observed that some people with shorter immune cell telomeres face a greater risk of catching a cold. LA Times retrieved and reported this information from a study recordered in JAMA. The job of a telomere is to protect a chromosome from damage serving as a DNA cap. Every time cell division occurs, the telomeres shorten. Once it reaches a point of being so small, the cell can no longer divide which eventually leads to it dying. Studies in previous years have linked shorter telomeres with disorders such as cancer, heart disease, and dementia. What the researchers were trying to find in their study was if the length of telomeres factored into young healthy adults obtaining more acute, common illnesses.

In order to support this hypothesis, they gathered a group of 152 healthy adults from the Pittsburgh area ranging from ages 18-55, to conduct the experiment. Their first step was to collect blood from each individual to measure telomere length in white blood cells. Participants were placed in quarantine for six days and were given nasal drops containing a virus that causes the common cold that would infect them within 24 hours. Results of the experiment yielded that 105 of 152 (69%) people were infected with the virus and of that 69%, 33 people (22%) developed a cold.

The results concluded that shorter telomeres in four types of blood cells allowed for a greater chance of being infected. The strongest link occurred in a type of T-cell called CD8CD28-cells. Shorter telomeres in this type of cell was associated with getting a cold and the connection between this relationship grew stronger with increase in the age of the participants. From these results, the researchers inferred that a virus infecting T-cells with shorter telomeres would not make new cells as fast as cells with longer telomeres making it harder for the body to destroy virus-infected cells. Since this data was preliminary, this is only the beginning of research done with telomeres and we are likely to see more done to help establish a definite relationship between telomere length and the common cold and other illnesses.



  1. The new research regarding telomere length and longevity is fascinating! In my opinion, these various observations being made are going to be the forefront of human life expansion; in other words, one day, I believe, much of the aging process in humans will be linked to telomere length, and we will have a way to combat this. Although the article strictly researches infection rate, this information may translate into many other areas of physiology within the body. Recently, subjects have been reporting positive results from a telomerase activator named TA-65; supposedly, this molecule has been said to be safe for human consumption and stall, or even reverse telomere shortening. Hopefully I can find a research article on it and post it - very interesting.

  2. I happen to agree very much. Although only infection was discusses, it is likely that it can factor into cancerous cells and if they these cells have shorter telomeres or can be controlled in some way it will shed light on people living very long lives. Somehow people with longer telomeres may be able to fight off a life threatening disease allowing them to live longer.