Spiritual practices such as meditation may seem a world away from biomedical research. Yet just up the coast, at the University of California, a team led by a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist is charging into territory where few scientists would dare to tread. Whereas Western bio-medicine has traditionally shunned the study of personal experiences and emotions in relation to physical health, these scientists are placing state of mind at the center of their work.
What cause aging?
Scientists long ago discovered that telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. Basically telemores are like protective shields at the end of our DNA that protect our chromosomes. Think of it like a plastic cap that used at the end of shoelaces! Unfortunately these protective caps wear down with each cell division and get shorter and shorter. This process will cause our cells to lose their ability to divide — a phenomenon that is now recognized as a key process in aging.
What slow-down aging?
In the 1980s, scientists discovered an enzyme called telomerase that can protect and rebuild telomeres. There is evidence that telomerase enzyme can slow, stop or perhaps even reverse the telomere shortening that happens as we age.Telomerase is produced only in cells that are actively dividing and that include cancerous cells. For this reason it is generally absent from body tissues in adults. Bone marrow is an exception to this rule, however, since even in adults, bone marrow cells continually divide to replace old blood cells.
How Meditation help?
Researchers have discovered that there is a meaningful connection between stress and telomeres. The more stressed the person were, the shorter their telomeres and the lower their levels of telomerase.
They are engaged in serious studies hinting that meditation might — as Eastern traditions have long claimed — slow aging and lengthen life. (Full Story – Can meditation really slow aging?)