The May 19, 2016 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reported the outcome of a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and researchers in Brazil that found an increase in telomerase in association with androgenic hormone treatment.
"One of the processes associated with aging is progressive shortening of telomeres, DNA-protecting structures at the ends of chromosomes, like the plastic tips on shoelaces," explained coauthor Rodrigo Calado, who is a professor at the University of São Paulo's Ribeirão Preto Medical School. "Each time a cell divides, its telomeres get shorter. Eventually, the cell can't replicate anymore and dies or becomes senescent. However, telomerase can keep the length of telomeres intact, even after cell division."
The study included 27 men and women with telomere maintenance gene mutations and telomere diseases, including aplastic anemia and pulmonary fibrosis. "Aplastic anemia is one of the diseases that can be caused by telomerase deficiency," Dr Calado noted.
Participants were treated for two years with the synthetic male steroid hormone danazol. Telomere length was assessed upon enrollment and at 6, 12 and 24 months. At 24 months, 92% of the subjects showed significant telomere elongation. "In a healthy adult, telomere length varies from 7,000 to 9,000 base pairs on average," Dr Calado observed. "A normal person's telomeres lose 50 to 60 base pairs per year, but a patient with telomerase deficiency can lose between 100 and 300 base pairs per year. In the patients who received danazol, telomere length increased by 386 base pairs on average over two years."
"The study we've just published was designed to find out whether the effect we'd observed in the lab also occurred in humans, and the results indicate that it does," he concluded.