Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mystery of the Shrinking Telomeres.........

It is uncanny, how things at a cellular level actually tell us what is happening to our society.

Just came across this link, that says that Social Stress takes a toll on our chromosomes , and this makes us age faster.  

We humans are created and function as a result of cell divisions.

A baby  is actually a single cell inside a mother's body, which gets replicated millions of times, in a knowledgeable and precoded fashion to form a human being.  There are cells that have different specializations, like heart cells, muscle cells, cells in our finger nails, cells on our tongue and so on. Throughout the process of living, cells get destroyed and new cells are needed, all this in predecided ways,  and hence the need for replicating a cell. 

Each cell has a nucleus , inside which there are chromosomes that define who we are and what we have inherited . Within the chromosomes are genes  and DNA strings. These are what are actually replicated when cells divide .  Each DNA string has a buffer zone at the end of the string, which is called as a telomere, and it plays an important role when  the DNA string is replicated, by ensuring that ends of the valid information bearing string  don't get chopped off, or corrupted in the process.

Whenever this terrible misfortune happens, cells replicate in abnormal ways, and the human is then subject to unpredictable maladies like certain syndromes and cancers. 

Many times certain external virii (viruses ?) which are nothing but a nucleus themselves, manage to penetrate the human cell nucleus and cause havoc  in the replication process. 

 The telomeres clearly try their best in view of all these dangerous events, often losing part of themselves and shortening dangerously in the process, resulting , in what scientific folks call faster aging, or sometimes, some irreversible syndromes..   

Recent research says stressed people have shorter telomeres.  

I think shorter telomeres cause stressed humans. 


Thousands of moons ago, our society was family centric.  Generations came and went, some family knowledge got copied and propagated, some did not, but it all happened amidst a decent supervision by immediate and extended family.

Singularities and possible aberrations in behaviour etc were noted, and acted upon in a reasonably corrective fashion in real time.  Those subjected to generational changes, knew that there was a buffer zone, sometimes of parents, sometimes of extended family, sometimes even made up of dedicated friends and neighbors, that would kick in during crises in life.  

Life had natural telomeres. 

Today, partially due to economic and  population related reasons, this telomeric buffer has shortened

Young folks have moved away from the nucleus, with successive generations  moving notionally further and further away from the roots.   It hasn't helped that in this immensely overpowering Information Age, they are continually clobbered by floods of information, both good and bad, reliable and unreliable,  objective and non objective. (I once wrote a post on this, entitled Perils of Mental Obesity).

And so , with a missing buffer, when we undergo a change, we now have knee jerk, short term, thoughtless decision making, where organizing for a future is concerned.  Very short to non existent life buffers to guide you in real time, means you are ill advised, you perpetrate mistakes, and then go in for , perhaps, what might be  late counselling....

Reactions to a perceived failure, an insult,  inability to manage a loss, whether it is a loss of a person, future, or a confidence,  today result in violent reactions which were unheard of in the old days.   In a complete  mismanagement of information, and misuse of broadcasting resources,  things are highlighted as breaking news when there is nothing sudden about them, leading to people misjudging things, and then consequently reacting.  Impaired ability to judge, and lack of patience , gets endemic.

Like throwing acid, killing, shooting, burning, disfiguring, abusing in the worst way possible.  All in the name of short term solutions. 

This is clearly, a type of cancer in society. Happening due to a severe shortening of telomeric support.

Watch what is happening in the elections.  So called politicians, and custodians of whatever, making preposterous statements to incite communal tensions,  candidates  being subject to hits of tomatoes, slippers, stones, shoes, and  slaps.  Anything the candidates mention is news.

Some guy admits he has a wife (hitherto denied all these years)  and millions comment. There are so many who have more than one wife, illegal in certain cases, and that is known but never mentioned.  Nobody bothers to ask the wives anyway. Some guy increases his assets 25 times within  a year without doing a day's honest work, and nothing happens, as people exert to find out a worse offender.  There is a dumbing of the mind of the general public.   

Candidates sulk,  clam shut,  accuse, defend,  cheat, lie,  and  as a face saving thing we now have a massive telomere in the form of the Election Commission, that tries to keep things in line.

A few years ago, I was visiting the city I grew up in, the city of my parents.  Walking down the old road near our house, I was stopped by a person in his sixties, who was presiding over his own tiny ironing shop, by the side of the road.

"Are you so-and-so's daughter ?"  he asked.

"Yes ! How did you know ? "  Me. Amazed. Because I didn't know him, and it was many years since my mother was no more.

"You know when she stood for the local election, when you were small kids?  I knew of her work during the Panshet Dam floods, and I used to be in the team with all of you when we did door to door campaigning !  You know, no loudspeakers, no shouting..."  he explained.

"I remember. She didn't win . "   Me. (She had successfully organized and headed the massive flood affected folks rehabilitation project initiated by Sakal, then not a politically connected paper, as it is today. )

" Yes. (Shook his head) The ability to call a spade a spade doesn't help in elections.  But we all joined to help her because we wanted someone honest and fearless. "

He went on to reminisce about the old days, his family, where everyone was, my family, where everyone was, what i did, and where I was based,  and then inevitably, the then  electoral scene, and how it was difficult to believe anyone.

We bid goodbye and went our ways. 

He, to iron some more clothes for folks, and create piles of folded stuff; and me,  lost in my old childhood memories.

Somewhere, I got the feeling that despite the desperate times in which we lived,  my telomeres were  in place,  decently long, alive and kicking.......




  1. Pune took its toll during the Panshet dam burst and people whole heartedly helped each other.
    A similar situation happened during/after the Chinese war in 1962. Those were the days of honest and sincere people like your mother.

  2. I learnt many interesting facts and it really gave food to my thought. Thank you.