Looks line our old friends telomeres, caps at the ends of chromosomes, are showing up in new contexts all over the place. Theory 12 in the Anti-Aging Firewalls treatise, you will recall, is that aging is measured if not caused by shortening of the telomere caps due to progressive cell divisions throughout life. When the caps get too short with age the cell can no longer reliably reproduce so it dies or settles into grumpy senescence or does evil stuff like causing cancers. This week, it is reported that defects in a single gene related to telomere length and stability leads to susceptibility to at least five different kinds of cancers. The cancers involved include basal cell carcinoma, melanoma and cancers of the lung, bladder, prostate and cervix.
Perhaps the greatest historical strides in population longevity have been related to public health – sewage systems, cleaner water, sanitation measures and the like. A recent study by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham Young University researchers points to the importance of good air quality. It appears that improvements in air quality in the US, particularly in cities, added about five months to life expectancy in the U.S. over twenty years. I speculate a lot more average life expectancy can be achieved through assuring availability of pure air and pure water to all.