I was asked by my patient, Robert, to comment what 2009 Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn said in last week’s TIME magazine article about longevity.
One of the articles was penned by Jeffrey Kluger, who quotes Blackburn:
“Cancers love telomerase, and a number of cancers up-regulate it like crazy. But some cancers are also related to low telomerase because that makes telomeres less stable. We don’t know how to strike some kind of balance. My feeling would be that if I take anything that would push my telomerase up, I’m playing with fire.”
Between the sentence ending with “stable” and the one beginning with “We”, the author inserts this comment, not indicating whether it is his opinion of that of Blackburn:
“Trying to boost telomerase through supplements is a very dangerous game to play- at least given the current state of medical knowledge.”
In the preceding paragraph, the author states these unsourced views:
“Telomerase supplements, however- either synthetically produced or in the many herbal supplements that claim to include the enzyme-are not the answer. If telomeres never burn down, you get immortal cells-which is another way of saying cancer cells”
Now then, there really is too much (or too little) here to comment on. Working backwards, the last quote incorrectly states that supplements claim to include telomerase when I don’t know of any that make that claim. Telomerase is a large enzyme that would be destroyed by proteases in the digestive enzymes and so would not be bioavailable orally. The statement about telomeres never burning down causing immortal cells is not a truism and in fact, mice cells die of oxidative stress with long telomeres. And it is quite incorrect to call them cancer cells because cancer cells typically exhibit other features such as loss of contact inhibition and failure of apoptotic pathways, not just enhanced replicative capacity.
In the preceding paragraph, the author states trying to boost telomerase through supplements is a very dangerous game, but that is after citing literature indicating that lengthening telomeres by behavioral interventions is desirable and possible. He does not explore the literature indicating safety and efficacy of telomerase activation in mice from the Blasco study nor the DePinho study, nor does he know that TA-65 received the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation from an expert panel using FDA guidelines.
Dr. Blackburn’s comments are what she has been saying for the last seven years; and for seven years, tens of thousands of normal people have safely ingested TA-65, including yours truly. I don’t know if cancers have the capacity to feel ‘love’ but we know Dr. Blackburn has a fear of fire. Other than that, she completely ignores that the system is capable of self-regulation. Recognized expertise and a smattering of tangents does not trump the real world experience of my patients in my opinion. And it is also a bit incongruous that she has published articles attempting to induce increased telomerase activity by lifestyle modification as way of attaining better health and slowing aging, yet she doesn’t feel those interventions would represent “playing with fire”.
In my clinical experience, chronic ingestion of the telomerase activating TA-65 does not irreversibly and continually lengthen telomeres nor appear to increase cancer incidence. Therefore, it must be simply enhancing telomerase activity in stem cells already capable and appropriately able to use it.
All in all, the article presents a case for telomere erosion and telomerase activity being causally related to aging. But it offers blanket and unfounded condemnation of telomerase activation through supplements in the interests of some unknown author agenda and prejudice.
10 thoughts on “TIME magazine and Elizabeth Blackburn issue broad condemnations of telomerase activation”
I started ta-65 the same day as ED. I have had nothing but good health. I just turned 76 and feel much younger. I am embarrassed to tell you how young I feel.
Yes, a very whacky quotation and statements from Mrs. Blackburn.. why does she own telome then =- a company to measure telomere length>> She does not seem to appear to understand the science behind what she was initially only one participant in discovering.. and she has a hundred 2 hour videos on youtube where she does like Dr. Park on Defusing the terror of again in laying out the facts on telomere erosion and the consequences.. obviously our telomeres erode the further we age so lengthening them any wya we can – by marathons or vigorous exercise or a supp from Sierra or Geron etc would – based up the stem cell theoryof agin help us PREVENT cancer and the effects of aging and the hayflick limit and all the stem cell issues with eroded temomeres.. A person can look at the actual patents held by Geron on ta65.. ..so she explains it beautifully in al of her lectures for the scientific community again a againn – then creates a company to measure telomeres – then years later comes out against lengthening them?? She’s doing the dont blame me thing and discouraging supp to extend our health-spans.. She’s Australian you know – not that I am discriminating against her – but she has a differnt culture than here in North America. .. Personally, if I could get my hands on the one truth serum cream from Dr Andrew’s and Sierra – (short of the TAM818 itself) I would ingest the cream!!! It aint no fun being sick as hell, terrible chronic hyper insomnia et al.. maybe if she ishes to be so carfeul she could have stated it would make sense to be checked for cancer bio-markers before beginning a Telomerase activation regimen?? I have been – and I do not have cancer.. TA65 is what, Doc? an 8 or 10 percent upregulator of telomerase?? it basically lengthens the shortest telomeres – not lengthens them all.. Andrews has stated the strengths we need to get to – to be able to actually REVERSE aging.. or stop it in its tracks… and his synthetics are getting close apparently.. but he knows it would take 15 years to bring it to market so they continue to look at naturals so they can get it in our hands (I follow them closes as i am able to).. You know, really although Greta Blackburn is extremely intelligent – she herself – although having made some of these initial telomease discoveries with the team she was on (and winning a Nobel Prize) she may not be actually involved at all in any ongoing science into telomere erosion or lengthening and the effects of each – she may not have funding nor the facilities to do so.. others have taken the lead.. so thats my two cents.. revgenetics put oout a nice email the other day on the major causes of aging, Valenzuela is a smart cookie too and s is Dr. Ed Park
David, Elizabeth with her intimate team stepped out of Telome 20 months ago. Read article at http://bit.ly/1DUXW0B.
THANK YOU!! I deeply appreciate your truthful and factual response to the yapping of a publicity-seeking, uninformed greenhorn in above her safe depth which is barely ankle-deep. I, too, have been ingesting DAILY TA-65 and then Recharge and still am amused by the constant bewildered stares I get when I confess I am 84. I don’t even notice my age – and by that I mean I get up and stretch and rush to the day and love my still-young life without crutches, without wheelchair, without shuffling, without needing assistance, without meals-on-wheels, without kidney failure, without heart monitoring, without fear of stroke…Life is different for me than for my peers thanks to Dr. Ed and this formula. Yes, it’s expensive but less than most of the meds my friends take and much less than a funeral….I’m available for personal consulting and more proof, whatever I can do to help….Just email.
This is now 2019. Are you still taking TA-65 and how are you doing after 4 years?
I have been taking purified astragalus derivative for 11+ years. So far so good!
Dr. Park, thank you for a well-reasoned and well-supported response to, as you say, some very curious and contradictory statements both by Dr. Blackburn and by the author. If I may, I would like to add some additional points to those well made by you:
–To Dr. Blackburn’s ‘fear of fire,’ Telomere/Telomerase expert Dr. Calvin Harley used similar terminology when he once described in layman’s terms the relationship between Telomerase and cancer, saying: “If my house is not on fire and you throw some gasoline on it, it will not start on fire; if my house is on fire and you throw gasoline on it, it may burn a little brighter for awhile, but it was already on fire.” Well put by someone who knows! [As you well know, Dr. Harley was for many years the Chief Scientific Officer of Geron Corp., the recognized worldwide leader in Telomere/Telomerase science: I believe it speaks VERY loudly that Geron could and would focus both on Telomerase Inhibition (TI) for cancer prevention and treatment, while ALSO focusing on Telomerase Activation (TA) to positively impact age-related degenerative diseases, for regenerative medicine, etc., via both Telomerase gene therapy and small molecule Telomerase activators.
— The preeminent experts in Telomerase and cancer, Drs. Jerry Shay and Woody Wright, seem to echo Harley’s statement by saying: “While telomerase does not drive the oncogenic process, it is permissive.” [‘Role of telomeres and telomerase in cancer,’ Shay & Wright, Seminars in Cancer Biology, 2011]
–As you very appropriately point out, of particular incongruity and puzzlement are Dr. Blackburn’s stated concerns about supplements or anything “that would push my telomerase up,” since as you say, she, Dr. Elissa Epel, and others, have conducted what I think all would agree is very important research in identifying some key lifestyle actions that do in fact increase telomerase activity (and help explain the ‘mind-body connection’ biochemically)! The greatest example of which is: a Blackburn/Epel pilot study [Int J Geriatr Psych., 2011], showing a 43% increase in Telomerase Activity in subjects who engaged in Yogic Meditation, vs. control! +43%! [To put that in perspective, in their public Patent application “Compositions & Methods for Increasing Telomerase Activity,” Geron designates a physical compound which increases telomerase activity by 25% or more as a “Preferred” Telomerase-Activator!]
And there are many other examples, e.g.: C. Werner, et.al. [J Am Coll Cardiol, 2008] demonstrated that “short-term running (21 days) upregulated cardiac telomerase activity to >2-fold sedentary controls”! SO: to meditate, or not to meditate? To run, or not to run? To supplement, or not to supplement? I believe the answer is clear.
And as you rightly suggest, the author’s lack of real knowledge and lack of deep research comes through loud and clear, to wit:
–Dr. Harley and Dr. Bill Andrews have both also made your point that, even if a supplement or drug could ‘include the enzyme telomerase,’ which is doubtful, the human body cannot use it! There are a couple, as well as a couple of skincare products, that claim to include porcine telomerase, but that is by definition ‘snake oil,’ er, ‘pig oil’! [The author reinforces his lack of knowledge by citing ‘synthetically produced’ telomerase supplements, which is a clear contradiction in terms, aka factual error, since any ‘synthetic’ would by definition be a ‘new drug,’ not a supplement.]
Which brings us back to “small molecule telomerase activators,” and the question of any potential increased risk of cancer. As cited in public documents, Geron’s early work with telomerase activation was done with key research collaborators Drs. Maria Blasco, who you reference, and Dr. Rita Effros at UCLA, using Telomerase Gene Therapy, which, unlike small molecule T-Activators, does ‘immortalize’ the cell, i.e. the telomerase gene is turned on permanently, which could potentially give rise to some concern.
But a good 10 years ago, in 2005, Geron publicly announced that they were forsaking Telomerase Gene Therapy in favor of advancing natural product-derived “small molecule telomerase-activating compounds” that they had identified. As Geron, Cal Harley, TA Sciences, Bill Andrews and others have publicly stated over and over again for the past 10 years, activating telomerase via small molecule telomerase activators is completely different than Telomerase Gene Therapy, because the small molecule only “transiently” (i.e., TEMPORARILY), activates the telomerase gene, not permanently as in Gene Therapy, so even a very short break from taking the small molecule activator is more than sufficient to ‘turn OFF the telomerase switch,’ essentially eliminating the risk of any unwanted cell proliferation, if one wants to do so out of an over-abundance of caution.
I would have thought that Dr. Blackburn would be well aware of this vital difference which, combined with her own research showing that mindfulness meditation is at least as powerful a telomerase activator as many natural small molecule T-Activators themselves, would show her that the “fire” of telomerase activation–through Lifestyle Actions + Supplementation– just as you teach, is something to be harnessed and used for significant benefit, rather than something to be feared.
As to the writer, I believe we’re seeing frankly a case of shoddy journalism here due to lack of real knowledge on the subject, with a lack of important research to do this story justice. [Or, it could be that, as he swooped in on a helicopter to briefly do an important story on telomeres, telomerase and aging–with a Nobel laureate no less–that he was distracted by “Telomere Timebombs going off just under my helicopter!!” (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)]
All kidding aside–because this is a vitally important topic–I hope I have been able to contribute some valuable additional perspective and knowledge to the discussion.
David B. Cross Founder & President, Telomere Biosciences, LLC.
In other words, the contentions of Blackburn and Time are falsified by the evidence.
Hmm, read the article too, and didn’t come to the broad conclusions stated above, though the actual Time Magazine author does the story a disservice by comments between the quotes.
Seems to me the article indicates that walking daily at an increased rate was shown to keep telomere length from shortening even with lifestyle stressors that have been found to shorten telomere length, thus suggesting exercise may eliminate the need for these products (which of course the makers and sellers do not want to hear). Also my take was doing it by exercise is more natural, has been done in our bodies for thousands of years, and also has many other known benefits. Then the suggestion was doing it chemically (supplements or pharma) has not been studied enough long-term to know of positive or negative tradeoffs or possibilities. I prefer supplements usually over pharma, but there is a place for both and many products in both arenas have been found to be less later than originally claimed.
What i got from the quotes by Blackburn is the ingredients have not been tested enough to know the long-term effects that can be negative (Product B only on skin cells in a dish?). I’ve read lots from those selling the product (doctors included), but no one has actual test results on humans and i find no study testing for Product B ingredients and the potential for certain increased cancer growths with increased telomerase.
My concern is this…what if i have cancerous or pre-cancerous cells already in my body when i begin Product B, which many people in the world have but don’t know it yet? Will telomerase cause it to grow more rapidly? That is my understanding of certain cancers, and it appears that is the concern with Blackburn in not knowing what helps and what may hurt long-term. I used it for five months, some good things, some reduced growths, but also some new growths that reduced when i stopped using Product B (my wife too, of a different type of growth). Now this could just be coincidence, but it may not be. Seems the Product B studies or comments always focus on the good, but no one appears to be mentioning or checking on the potential bad, or if they did i can’t find it anywhere.
Seemed the comments above were merely to rip into a person with whom you disagree or don’t like her conclusions or statements, but without evidence contradicting what Blackburn is quoted as saying. The “contradictions” you mention aren’t the important matter, it is point me to a Product B or telomerase study that says increasing this process does not cause increases in cancers or growths. Anyone have current studies anywhere showing this so I can return to using the product?
I do want this product to be great, but with so much word of mouth and so little testing, it does raise a big concern for me as the product has been out for a long time and there is plenty of money rolling in now to do some excellent studies on animals and humans. We’ve been hearing about a recent study, though my question is does this study only focus on the good and does it ask the questions to those in the study about the possible bad (not general, but specific)? We all know huge amounts of money disappear if the bad is true at all, but hoping that is not the case here.
Give me cites, links, articles, or whatever you have, but please be current and not one-sided general statements that have no data or study to support the claims either direction. I want science, not sellers and mere believers. 🙂
Hi Kevin. Here is a bibliography of the studies that you requested
(2014) Szabo, Dietary Safety of cycloastrogenol from Astragalus spa; Subchronic toxicity and geotaxis studies. Food an chemical toxicology 64(2014) 322-334
(2013) Molgara et al. Functional Assessment of Pharmacological Telomerase Activators in Humans
(2013) Harley et al. A natural product telomerase activator as part of a health maintenance program: metabolic and cardiovascular response.
(2011) deJesus et al.The telomerase activator TA-65 elongates short telomeres and increases health span of adult/old mice without increasing cancer incidence.
(2011) Harley et al. A natural product telomerase activator as part of a health maintenance program.
(2008) Fauce et al. Telomerase-Based Pharmacologic Enhancement of Antiviral Function of Human CD8+ T Lymphocytes1