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EARLY RESEARCH

Unit  6  -­‐  Commission  

Research  –  Key  things  to  work  out  
1)  The  Science  behind  Telomeres   2)  The  target  group   3)  How  to  connect  the  science  to  the  target  group  

1  –  the  Science  
I  leE  school  20  years  ago.    I  vaguely   remember  making  a  DNA  helix  out  of   straws.    But  the  science  is  beyond  me  and  I   can’t  find  any  “telomeres  for  dummies”   books,  so  I  have  harangued  a  science-­‐ teacher  friend  into  explaining  it  all.  This  has   been  a  huge  help.      

       Cells  

Humans  are  made  of  millions  of  cells.  This  has   a  number  of  benefits:     •  Cells  can  be  specialised  to  do  parUcular   tasks   •  groups  of  cells  can  funcUon  as  organs   making  a  more  efficient  but  complex   organism   •  the  organism  can  grow  very  large  

Cell  division  
New  cells  are  needed  throughout  life.  These  are   for  growth,  to  replace  damaged  cells  and  repair   worn  out  Ussues.  Normal  human  body  cells  are   diploid  –  they  have  two  of  each  chromosome.   When  new  cells  are  made,  these  46   chromosomes  (in  other  organisms  the  number   is  different)  are  copied  exactly  in  a  process   called  mitosis.     Mitosis  is  the  type  of  cell  division  used  for   growth  and  repair.  Mitosis  occurs  wherever  new   cells  are  needed.  It  produces  two  cells  that  are   idenUcal  to  each  other,  and  the  parent  cell.   In  mitosis  each  chromosome  is  copied  exactly.   The  new  chromosomes  are  moved  to  opposite   sides  of  the  cell,  before  the  cell  divides  leaving   one  complete  set  of  46  chromosomes  in  each  of   the  two  new  cells.  

What  are  Telomeres?  
What  are  telomeres?   Repeated  DNA    that  forms  protecUve  caps  at   the  ends  of  our  chromosomes.       Telomeres  perform  a  similar  role  to  the  plasUc   Up  at  the  end  of  a  shoelace.  Like  these  plasUc   Ups  that  keep  shoelaces  from  becoming   damaged  or  frayed,  telomeres  protect  our   chromosomes  from  the  criUcal  shortening  and   damage  that  may  ulUmately  lead  to  cellular   death  and  loss  of  health.  Telomeres  shorten   overUme,  and  this  shortening  is  considered   both  a  marker  of  cell  aging  —  a  clock  of  the   cell's  lifespan  —  as  well  as  a  causal  factor  in   cell  aging.  Telomere  shortening  is  like  a   "geneUc  Ume  clock"  —  indicaUng  a  reduced   cellular  lifespan.  When  telomeres  reach   criUcally  short  lengths,  the  clock  "runs  out  of   Ume,"  and  cells  cease  to  funcUon  normally   and  can  die  altogether.  

How  are  telomeres  different  from  the  rest  of  our   DNA?   Telomeres  consist  of  a  special  D  NA  
sequence  and  specialized  telomeric   proteins  that  together  form  a  protecUve   cap  on  our  chromosomes.  Unlike  any   other  part  of  the  genome,  they  are   considered  a  biological  marker  of  the   accumulated  wear  and  tear  of  living,   integraUng  geneUc  influences,  lifestyle   behaviors  and  stress.  Most  importantly   telomeres  are  the  only  known  part  of   our  geneUc  sequence  that  are  dynamic,   and  they  appear  to  be  influenced  by   non-­‐geneUc  factors  such  as  lifestyle   changes  (diet,  behavior,  and  mental   well  being).  
   

 

  How  are  telomeres  related  to  life  and  aging?    
Telomere  shortening  is  inUmately   involved  in  human  disease  and   mortality.  Short  telomeres  impair  the   ability  of  cells  to  divide  properly.  When   the  DNA  in  a  cell  is  unable  to  properly   replicate,  the  cell  either  undergoes  cell   death,  or  potenUally  worse,  conUnues   to  stay  alive  but  funcUons  poorly.   Poorly  funcUoning  cells  can  alter  a   healthy  physiological  balance  in  the   body,  by,  for  example,  creaUng  a  high   level  of  pro-­‐inflammatory  cytokines  in   the  blood.     Studies  have  shown  associaUons   between  shorter  telomere  length  and   various  types  of  cardiovascular  disease   (e.g.,  stroke,  heart  aeacks),  cancer,  and   diabetes.  Shorter  telomeres  have  also   been  associated  with  osteoporosis,   cogniUve  funcUon,  demenUa,   depression,  and  inflammatory  diseases   like  arthriUs.  Conversely,  longer   telomeres  are  linked  to  healthy  aging   and  overall  longevity.  

Target  group  
•  Children  and  young  people  don’t  want  to   know  about  aging.       •  Older  people  don’t  necessarily  want  to  know   about  aging,  but  are  interested  in  how  to  hold   the  process  off   •  It  is  not  relevant  for  the  very  elderly   •  My  target  group  is  50+  -­‐  they  sUll  have  Ume  to   change  their  habits!  

PresenUng  InformaUon  for  the  target  group  

It  is  reasonable  to  assume  that  companies  such  as  Saga   have  done  extensive  market  research  into  this  target  group.      

However,  a  quick  survey  of  people  aged  50+  revealed  that,   while  they  are  clear  and  easy  to  follow,  these  web-­‐pages   aimed  at  50+  are  flat  and  uninspiring.  

These  examples  have  too  much  informaUon  to  be  clear  

These  are  clear,  bright   but  not  overpowering,   and  fun!  

And  the  favourite…  

What  part  of  the  informaUon  do  they  need/want  to   know?  
From  my  “select  group”  of  over  50s:   •  What  is  happening,  in  lay-­‐man’s  terms  -­‐  minimal  science     •  How  it  impacts  on  “me”  now   •  Is  it  too  late  to  bother  worrying  about  it?