University of California San Francisco (UCSF) scientists report psychological stress leads to shorter telomeres – the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are a measure of cell age and thus, health. Their findings also suggest exercise may prevent this damage. They examined telomeres in leukocytes, or white blood cells, which defend the body against both infectious agents and cell damage. “Our findings suggest that traumatic and chronic stressful life events are associated with shortening of telomeres in cells of the immune system, but that physical activity may moderate this impact,” said co-author Jue Lin, PhD, associate research biochemist in the laboratory of senior author and Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF.
UCSF, April 2011