Centennials often cite a low-stress, carefree lifestyle as the secret to their longevity. We now know that stresses can make your body clock break into a sprint at a molecular level. Here’s what you need to know.
Ageing is an inevitability for all living organisms, and although we still don’t know exactly why our bodies gradually grow ever more decrepit, we are starting to grasp how it happens.
Our new research, published in Ecology Letters, pinpoints factors that influence one of the most important aspects of the ageing process, at the fundamental level of our DNA. It suggests how stress can cause the biochemical body clock built into our chromosomes to tick faster.
DNA – the genetic material in our cells – does not float freely in cells’ nuclei, but is organised into clumps called chromosomes. When a cell divides and produces a replica of itself, it has to make a copy of its DNA, and because of the way this process works, a tiny portion is always lost at one end of each DNA molecule.
To protect vital portions of DNA from being lost in the process, the ends of chromosomes are capped with special sequences called telomeres. These are gradually whittled away during successive cell divisions.