UCSF probes new telomere biomarker

Researchers at UC San Francisco have begun a study to determine what the length of a woman's telomeres--the protective section found at the tip of chromosomes--can tell clinicians about the overall health and stability of their cells.

Some scientists say there's solid evidence to suggest that short telomeres can be a biomarker for specific ailments like heart disease and diabetes. And the investigators say that at some point checking telomere lengths could be included in a battery of diagnostic tests evaluating a person's health.

"The idea of telling people their telomere length is totally new and somewhat radical," Elissa Epel, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF, tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "But the field has reached a critical threshold where we've got to move to see what it looks like as a clinical measure. This study may be a step toward finding out that we should use (telomeres) widely in health care. Or we might find out that it doesn't actually benefit people to learn, and telomeres are not easily changeable."

The study of telomeres as a biomarker of a person's health has already attracted the interest and involvement of private companies. And two of the researchers involved in the study at UCSF say they're interested in launching a commercial venture of their own.

- here's the story from the San Francisco Chronicle