So it turns out that today is #nationalsuperheroday so I thought I would revisit this Liz Parrish telomerase gene therapy story. She states that in September of 2015, she took gene therapy to introduce supernormal numbers of copies of telomerase and follistatin into her genome. There has been a lot of buzz around this and there are three linked stories at the bottom for you to consider.
I like Liz and I think that she means well but to be honest, you won’t find me signing up to become an X-MEN volunteer when I get the same, reversible benefit from taking a telomerase activator. Let me explain:
On the one hand, this type of gene therapy has been in use for twenty years and precisely integrates 2-3 extra copies of any gene into Chromosome 19
Secondly, gene therapy into differentiated, non-immortal, non-stem cells is not as impactful as integration into immortalized stem cells. To the best of my knowledge, this tech cannot be targeted so there is a lot of “waste” of trying to immortalize doomed cells.
Thirdly, post-translational modification of the TERC (telomerase RNA component) may play a big role as the “key” to run the engine of telomerase. That is why non-stem cells aren’t immortal. There is no reason to believe that adding these two genes that Liz added will alter TERC behavior so that is a good thing insofar as we won’t be immortalizing non-stem cells.
Finally, we don’t know how to turn OFF the increased telomerase activity and whether the automatic regulation, pruning and homeostasis of telomeres would be able to keep Liz’s telomeres from irreversibly elongating. Presumably, the experience with telomerase activation that I and many others have for over 8 years implies that those regulatory mechanisms will remain intact but we don’t know for sure what the long term effects of maintaining an “always on” environment will be for any stem cells that are enhanced in this manner. With a nutriceutical activator, you can just choose to stop and let the effects wear off.
Because she is in terra incognita, we don’t know what the long term effects will be. In contrast, tens of thousands of people have tried TA-65 and there is little evidence of any pattern of untoward effects. So it is just a matter of safety in my opinion.
To hear about her reasons for doing this, watch the interview that I did with her:
Here is the recent blog explaining the problem with the “20 years younger” estimate, and here are some recent articles about Liz (click to read):