Navigation Links
Blame Common Colds on Your Chromosome 'Caps?'

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Some people seem to catch a cold every few weeks while others appear immune. Now a preliminary study suggests that the protective "caps" on your chromosomes could partly explain the mystery.

The study, reported in the Feb. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that healthy young adults were more prone to catching a cold when their immune system cells had relatively short telomeres.

Telomeres are lengths of DNA that sit at the ends of your chromosomes. Think of them like the plastic caps at the ends of a shoelace: Telomeres help keep your chromosomes -- which carry your genes -- from fraying and sticking together.

As people age, their telomeres gradually get shorter, and research has linked shorter telomere length to older adults' risks of developing and dying from infections, cancer and heart disease.

"But there's been very little known about telomere length in young people, certainly in relation to health," said Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who led the new study.

Because colds and other respiratory infections are the most common health woe in younger people, Cohen's team decided to see whether telomere length mattered in their risk of developing a cold.

The researchers recruited 152 healthy 18- to 55-year-olds, and measured telomere length in the volunteers' T cells -- immune system cells that fight off infection. They then exposed the men and women to a cold virus via nasal drops, and quarantined them in a hotel to be monitored.

Over the next five days, 22 percent of the volunteers developed cold symptoms, and the odds were higher among those with shorter telomeres in a particular subtype of T cell. Of the one-third with the shortest telomeres, 26 percent became sick, versus 13 percent among the one-third with the longest telomeres.

"This is something new and provocative," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., who was not involved in the research.

"All of us know some people who get one cold after another, and others who seem like they're able to be around people with colds but remain robust," said Schaffner, who is also a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

These findings, Schaffner said, raise the possibility that there is some role for the telomeres in our T cells.

"We're not all created equal in terms of our telomeres," he said. "Just like some of us are short, and some are tall."

What does that mean for you during cold and flu season? Nothing right now, according to both Schaffner and Cohen.

For one, nobody knows if they have skimpy telomeres. And even if they did, it's not clear whether there's anything they could do about it.

"There is a lot of research interest right now in whether it's possible to alter telomere length, either through some kind of behavioral change or a medication," Cohen said. "But we're pretty far from that point."

What's more, the current findings do not prove that shorter telomeres, per se, mean more cold misery. The researchers did account for other factors, such people's age, weight and race. But Cohen said there could be other explanations. It's possible, for example, that some genetic factor makes people have shorter T-cell telomeres and renders them more vulnerable to colds.

On the other hand, shorter telomeres may impair T cells' ability to battle cold viruses, Cohen said.

Still, no one knows yet whether these findings could one day have practical use.

"This is really the first evidence that this biomarker of aging may be important for 25-year-olds as well as 65-year-olds, and for acute health conditions as well as chronic," Cohen said.

Of course, you do not need to wait for any telomere-lengthening therapy to curb your risk of catching a cold. "Wash your hands," Schaffner advised. "And try to avoid people who are sneezing and coughing."

More information

Learn more about telomeres and health from the University of Utah.

SOURCES: Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., professor, psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh; William Schaffner, M.D., chair, preventive medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tenn.; Feb. 20, 2013, Journal of the American Medical Association

Copyright©2012 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Thigh fat may be to blame for older adults who slow down
2. Alcohol Blamed for 1 in Every 30 Cancer Deaths: Study
3. Eating or spending too much? Blame it on Facebook
4. Streetcar tracks blamed in one-third of Toronto bike accidents
5. Obesity, Depression Blamed for Daytime Sleepiness Epidemic
6. Feeling Lackadaisical? Sleep Apnea May Be to Blame
7. Age-related macular degeneration common cause of vision impairment in Kenya
8. AllMed Webinar Helps Peer Review Professionals Learn About Common Complications Associated with LVAD Implantation
9. Fitness Experts Dispel Common Exercise Myths
10. Hemorrhoids Are Common, Preventable and Treatable
11. Common Causes of Memory Slips, From the February 2013 Harvard Men's Health Watch
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Blame Common Colds on Your Chromosome 'Caps?'
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... announced its strategic partnership with Connance, a healthcare industry leader providing predictive ... proven, proprietary technology combine to provide health systems, hospitals and ambulatory surgical ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... , ... Quality metrics are proliferating in cancer care, and are derived from ... of the beholder, according to experts who offered insights and commentary in the current ... For the full issue, click here . , For the American Society of ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... PawPaws brand pet supplements ... that was developed to enhance the health of felines. The formula is all-natural and ... main herbs in the PawPaws Cat Kidney Support Supplement Soft Chews are ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... 25, 2016 , ... Experts from the American Institutes for ... Meeting June 26-28, 2016, at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. , AIR ... care planning, healthcare costs and patient and family engagement. , AIR researchers will ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... 25, 2016 , ... "With 30 hand-drawn hand gesture animations, FCPX users can ... CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProHand Cartoon’s package transforms over 1,300 hand-drawn ... X . Simply select a ProHand generator and drag it above media or text ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016  MedSource announced ... as its e-clinical software solution of choice.  This ... best possible value to their clients by offering ... The preferred relationship establishes nowEDC as the EDC ... for MedSource,s full-service clients.  "nowEDC has long been ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Roche (SIX: ... 510(k) clearance for its Elecsys BRAHMS PCT (procalcitonin) assay ... sepsis or septic shock. With this clearance, Roche is ... a fully integrated solution for sepsis risk assessment and ... with bacterial infection and PCT levels in blood can ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 , ... on Thursday, July 7, 2016 , , , , LOCATION: ... , , , , EXPERT PANELISTS:  , , , ... Senior Industry Analyst, Christi Bird; Senior Industry Analyst, Divyaa Ravishankar and ... The global pharmaceutical industry is witnessing an exceptional era. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: