How’s Your Telomerase?

A recent study suggests that activities that increase a person’s sense of well-being, such as meditation, may be linked to cellular health. 

The study, by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, San Francisco, is the first to link positive well-being to higher telomerase, an enzyme important for the long-term health of cells in the body. Positive psychological changes that occur during meditation training are associated with greater telomerase activity, according to the University of California, Davis-based Shamatha Project.

The project is one of the first long-term, detailed, matched control-group studies of the effects of intensive meditation training on mind and body. The research team measured telomerase activity in participants at the end of a three-month intensive meditation retreat. Telomerase activity was about one-third higher in the white blood cells of participants who had completed the retreat than in a matched group of controls. The enzyme can rebuild and lengthen telomeres, sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that tend to get shorter every time a cell divides. When telomeres drop below a critical length, the cell can no longer divide properly and eventually dies. The study was published on October 29 in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.