First off, telomeres are repetitive sequences at the end of chromosomes that protect the chromosomes.

There are actually a lot of really interesting correlations between certain things and shortened telomeres.  For example, gender was pretty neat.  I think it’s pretty common knowledge that girls live longer than guys, on average, but there’s a pretty serious drop in average telomere length for guys, whereas girls keep truckin’ on.  The telomere lengths decrease overall for both, though.  What is pretty neat to look at is the statistical increase in telomere length as people start getting much older.  It looks like it’s because people who had shorter telomeres were passing away and as the age went higher and higher, the telomere length was going back up on the chart because those were the people surviving.  That’s a pretty hefty correlation between longevity and telomere length.

I actually got to meet with Elizabeth Blackburn yesterday.  She’s one of the three scientists who discovered telomerase (the enzyme that replenishes telomeres) and received a Nobel Prize for it.