Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are telomeres?
Telomeres are protective pieces of DNA located on the ends of our chromosomes. In this function they have been compared to the protective plastic bits on the ends of shoelaces. They’ve also been compared to clocks inside our cells. As our cells divide and after exposure to many different kinds of stresses, the telomere clock ticks down, becoming shorter and shorter. In much more detail, telomeres consist of a short sequence of DNA that is repeated over and over to make up a very long chain of repeats. Loss of these repeats is how the telomere clock ticks down, and addition of repeats reverses this process.
Q: Are the telomere tests offered by TeloMe clinical or diagnostic tests?
The tests offered by TeloMe are for personal informational and research purposes only, and results do not provide clinical results or diagnoses of diseases or medical conditions. Existing telomere analysis technologies have revealed some very provocative findings regarding the association between telomere length and risk of disease. However, some studies using these same technologies have shown no association and the limitations of these existing technologies are known widely. Therefore, we question some of the health associations made using these technologies. TeloMe has developed and continues to refine improved telomere analysis technologies in order to clarify the role of telomere lengths on overall health and risks of various diseases.
Q: Is saliva as good as blood for testing telomeres? What is the source of DNA in saliva?
Although scientific comparisons of blood and saliva telomere length are few, there is a good although imperfect correlation between the two. Nevertheless, DNA in saliva is actually derived from blood. In a surprising and serendipitous discovery scientists recently found that people who have received bone marrow transplants bear the genes of the donor in both their blood and their saliva, but not in other cells! In another publication in Nature Communications, it was shown that telomeres shorten at equivalent rates in the somatic tissues of adults. Therefore, saliva telomere length is probably a reliable indicator of telomere length dynamics. There are two complications in using saliva to measure telomeres: even fresh saliva contains a substantial amount of degraded DNA, and saliva contains DNA from bacteria and other microbes. Our suite of collection, processing, and analysis technologies enable us to collect samples by mail and courier, then extract and test purified DNA directly from saliva, without interference from microbial DNA. Saliva mixed with our preservative is very stable, even for long international shipping, but there is a chance your DNA will be either too little, too degraded, or both to allow processing. See frequently asked questions about our process for more details. The current bottom line is that saliva is proving to be a very important source for genomic analyses, but substantial research remains to be done to corroborate previous telomere length discoveries made using blood, and to validate saliva as a source for clinical-grade telomere analyses. TeloMe is leading this research effort and the transition toward clear understanding and widespread acceptance of saliva telomere data.
Q: Is there anything I can do to slow or reverse the shortening of my telomeres?
There are many things that might slow telomere shortening, and initial scientific studies report that there are also ways to reverse this process, to actually lengthen telomeres. Many things regulate telomere the rate of telomere shortening, including certain dietary factors, sleep, stress, and exercise. Here are a few that have been shown to slow telomere shortening:
However, everyone is different and it isn't currently know what levels of these different factors are right for each person. This is the most important reason to test your own telomeres.
Q: Why should I get my telomeres tested? What can a telomere test tell me? How can it help me?
Research findings have shown that short telomeres are a risk factor for declining health with age. One report in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that short telomeres reveal risk of even the common cold, and elevated risk was seen in both older people and in people as young as their twenties. However, existing technologies have many limitations and contradictory results have been reported. TeloMe has developed new technologies in order to overcome these problems and to provide more definitive data to answer these questions. Our community of telomere trackers is helping greatly in this research effort and breaking important new ground in telomere analysis.
Q: Do you ship outside the U.S.?
Yes. There is an additional $15 shipping charge for international (non-US) orders. If we cannot ship to your country, or if your kit doesn't arrive at our labs, we will try a second time or give you a full refund.
Q: Can I get someone else’s telomeres tested? Can I get my child or dependent's telomeres tested?
At this point, we are only offering personal telomere testing to those who consent to test themselves. If you have a child or dependent you’d like to have tested as part of a research plan, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org