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How young are you?

Luglio 2017
Perché ci sono persone che invecchiano prima di altre o sviluppano precocemente delle malattie? Certo, lo stile di vita è importante, ma la scienza ci dice che è anche questione di geni...

di John O’Reilly © British Council

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Speaker: Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)

New research may help explain why some younger people get illnesses usually found in older people.


Why do some young people get heart disease at an early age? And why do others develop it when they’re 80 and still have coronary arteries that look normal? These questions interest Professor Nilesh Samani of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at Leicester University. His new research has been looking at how genes are involved.


Professor Samani and his colleague Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, discovered that there is a gene connected to getting older, biologically. Biological ageing is different to chronological ageing. "It’s not the same as the body’s health or appearance," explains Professor Samani. "Our bodies sometimes behave as though they are older than they are."


Near the ends of our chromosomes are telomeres – pieces of DNA that fit on the ends like socks. Professor Samani explains that, when we are born, some people have longer telomeres and other people have shorter ones. As people get older, the telomeres get shorter, and they get shorter at different speeds.
"The cell thinks we’re old because of the length of the telomere," says Professor Samani. "Because we are born with different telomere lengths, we get older at different speeds." And the team have shown before that people likely to get heart disease have shorter telomeres. "So, there is a link," says Professor Samani, "between shorter telomeres, getting biologically older, and how likely you are to get heart disease."


Their new research found a difference in genes that can make telomeres different lengths. "You get one copy from your father and one copy from your mother," says Professor Samani. If you get two “bad copies” your telomere might be seven to eight years shorter than people who get the two good copies. But, there are many things involved in the development of heart disease, and how we live is an important one.
This discovery won’t stop ageing, but understanding ageing will make more research possible.

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Non mi sento bene

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