Telomerase Enzyme and Drug Therapies
The scientists at Einstein discovered that the centenarians and their offspring had higher levels of human telomerase activity and longer telomeres than the much younger control group. The older group also had higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and an average lower body mass index.
The research further reinforces previous work by the same study group that revealed that Ashkenazi Jewish families with a history of longevity are relatively free of some age-related illnesses such as heart disease.
What is unknown at this stage is the mechanism by which the hyperactive form of telomerase maintains telomere length, but it does seem to appear that a combination of the enzyme and telomere length work to protect older people from some diseases.
It has led scientists to wonder if a drug could be manufactured that could mimic the activity of telomerase in the centenarians - and be given to people to protect them from age-related diseases.
It sounds great in principle, but there is a potential fly in the ointment. Prolonging cell life and making them divide more increases the risk of damaging mutations that can lead to cancer. However, this doesn't seem to happen in the centenarians so perhaps there is something else going on in their biochemistry. In addition, even though the Einstein research is extremely interesting it may not be replicated in other populations.
There's probably no need to start planning your 150th birthday party just yet, but the evidence is mounting all the time that people who have long telomeres have fewer age-related diseases.