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Our genes are arranged along molecules of DNA that make up our chromosomes. At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres. The building blocks of DNA are called nucleotides and telomeres consist of the same sequence of nucleotides repeated over and over again.
Cells divide for many reasons, including growth and to replace old, damaged, or dead cells. Whenever a cell divides, a few nucleotides from the end of the DNA strand are lost.
Telomeres play an important role in making sure our DNA gets copied properly when cells divide. Due to their repetitive sequence of nucleotides, they are shortened with each cell division, without compromising the genetic material of the cell.
When telomeres get too short, the cell can no longer divide; it becomes inactive or it dies.
Oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract their harmful effects, can further shorten telomeres.
As we age, our telomeres become shorter and oxidative stress increases.
Chaperone proteins are the free radical scavengers of our cells and can therefore reduce oxidative stress and protect our telomeres.