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Astragalus Root Can Prevent Telomere Shortening

Posted Nov 12 2008 7:45pm
One of the recommendations from yesterday's video is taking antioxidants, especially for older women, to help offset DNA damage from the aging process (GreenFertility likes whole foods-based Super Nutrition's Antioxidant Power ).
So this story about astragalus root came off the wire yesterday, about how some chemical that they are feverishly trying to extract from this common Asian medicinal herb helps shorten telomeres. Telomeres basically are an indication of the age of a chromosome, they shorten as the chromosome ages. Interestingly, in a recent study they did on how STRESS ages us, they used parents of autistic children as their stress-bucket test subjects, which seemed to me to be pretty appropriate (and yes, we do have telemores that shorten at a faster rate).

I just think it's funny (sad?) that there's this sudden rush to extract, synthesize, and probably to genetically engineer this (and of course patent for $$$) when people in Asia have been taking this for thousands of years, and yes, my elders are always saying, "Eat this! You'll live longer!" I always feel using the unprocessed plant part is better And yes, it's good for fertility by virtue of it being an adaptogen, like ginseng.

Here's the post I did at my "old" blogging job at Adoption.com : http://blogs.fertilitycommunity.com/weblogs/astragalus-whang-ki-huang-qi

How to add some whang-ki to your life? Easy! Click for the FertilityBitch's chicken soup recipe.

A good source to buy some organic astralagus/whang-ki: Mountain Rose Herbs.

From Newswise, the journalists'-only site:


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Newswise — Like other kinds of cells, immune cells lose the ability to divide as they age because a part of their chromosomes known as a telomere becomes progressively shorter with cell division. As a result, the cell changes in many ways, and its disease fighting ability is compromised.

But a new UCLA AIDS Institute study has found that a chemical from the Astragalus root, frequently used in Chinese herbal therapy, can prevent or slow this progressive telomere shortening, which could make it a key weapon in the fight against HIV.

The study, to be published in the Nov. 15 print edition of the Journal of Immunology, is available online at www.jimmunol.org/cgi/content/full/181/10/7400.

A telomere is a region at the end of every cell chromosome that contains repeated DNA sequences but no genes; telomeres act to protect the ends of the chromosomes and prevent them from fusing together — rather like the plastic tips that keep shoelaces from unraveling. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter, eventually causing the cell to reach a stage called replicative senescence, when it can no longer divide. This seems to indicate that the cell has reached an end stage, but, in fact, the cell has changed into one with new genetic and functional characteristics.

Generally, the telomeres in cells are sufficiently long that they can divide many times without a problem. Moreover, when fighting infections, T-cells can turn on an enzyme called telomerase, which can prevent the telomeres from shortening....

Previous studies have shown that injecting the telomerase gene into T-cells can keep the telomeres from shortening, enabling them to maintain their HIV-fighting function for much longer. This gene-therapy approach, however, is not a practical way to treat the millions of people living with HIV.

For the present study, rather than utilizing gene therapy, the researchers used a chemical called TAT2, which was originally identified from plants used in traditional Chinese therapy and which enhances telomerase activity in other cell types...

"The ability to enhance telomerase activity and antiviral functions of CD8 T-lymphocytes suggests that this strategy could be useful in treating HIV disease, as well as immunodeficiency and increased susceptibility to other viral infections associated with chronic diseases or aging," the researchers write.

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