DNA may be related to your ability to fight the common cold

Shortened telomere may be related to one’s ability to fight the common cold

 
According to research conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, shortened telomeres may be related to one’s ability to fight the common cold; but what are telomeres and why are shortened telomeres associated with health?

Telomeres and what they do

Think of telomeres as the plastic caps on the end of your shoelaces. The plastic caps protect the integrity of the lace and once the plastic has degraded the lace becomes frayed and broken. Telomeres do the same for your chromosomes; they sit at the end of the chromosome and essentially protect them from becoming frayed and stuck together. [1]

As you age your telomeres become shorter and this shortening has been linked to increased risks of developing infections and cancer and dying from them. Telomere lengths are not equal throughout all people and, in fact, many people are genetically predisposed to have shorter telomeres and this is where they may potentially play their part in contracting a common cold.

Telomere length and the common cold

Very little is known about telomere length among the young and healthy and so researchers at Carnegie Mellon University set out to learn more about the role that telomeres play among the younger demographic.

152 individuals between the ages of 18 and 55 were recruited for the study, and researchers measured the length of telomeres in the T cells of the volunteers; T-cells are cells of the immune system that help to ward off infection. [2]

Volunteers were given nasal drops that contained a cold virus for six days and researchers found that of the 33% of participants with the shortest telomeres 26% became sick compared to 13% contracting the illness among the one-third of participants with the longest telomeres.

What the findings mean

Shorter telomere length could potentially explain why we know people who seem to get sick multiple times throughout the flu and cold season and why others seem to do just fine year-after-year even when surrounded by those who have caught the illness.

More research will need to be done to confirm the findings and as of yet there is no way to lengthen your telomeres to help protect you from catching a cold.
For the time being it seems that the best method of prevention is to avoid those who are exhibiting cold and flu symptoms and to take proper precautions by washing your hands and keeping your work environment clean.

By Maria Abaca

[1] Norton, Amy. “Blame Common Colds on Your Chromosome ‘Caps?’” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 19 Feb. 2013. .
[2] Horn, Leslie. “You Can Maybe Blame That Cold on Your Short Telomeres.” Gizmodo. 20 Feb. 2013. .

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Maria Abaca, RN


Maria Abaca is a RN (Registered Nurse) and founder of the Animal Support non-profit organization, which assists in the promotion of animal advocacy campaigns and builds awareness for animal well-being.

Maria Abaca, RN graduated from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California in 2005 with a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Nursing. Maria is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree of Science in Nursing, focusing on Nursing Administration.

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