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DNA damage is distinctly different from mutation, although both are types of error in DNA. DNA damage is an abnormal chemical structure in DNA, while a mutation is a change in the sequence of standard base pairs. DNA damages cause changes in the structure of the genetic material and prevents the replication mechanism from functioning and performing properly.
DNA damage and mutation have different biological consequences. While most DNA damages can undergo DNA repair, such repair is not 100% efficient. Un-repaired DNA damages accumulate in non-replicating cells, such as cells in the brains or muscles of adult mammals, and can cause aging.
In replicating cells, such as cells lining the colon, errors occur upon replication past damages in the template strand of DNA or during repair of DNA damages.
DNA damage can occur naturally or via environmental factors.
Tens of thousands of DNA damages occur per day per cell, on average, in humans, due to reactive molecules produced by metabolism or by hydrolytic reactions in the warm aqueous cellular media.
DNA damage can be subdivided into two types:
(1) Endogenous damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are derived from metabolic byproducts and
(2) Exogenous damage caused by radiation (UV, X-ray, gamma), hydrolysis, plant toxins, and viruses.
This could result in the development of a variety of cancers including colon, breast, and prostate
Telomeres sit on the end of our chromosomes -- the strands of DNA stored in the nucleus of cells. The telomeres shorten each time a cell divides to make new cells, until they reach a critical short length and the cells enter an inactive state and then die. Therefore telomeres shorten as an individual gets older. But, individuals are born with different telomere lengths and the rate at which they subsequently shorten can also vary. The speed with which telomeres wear down is a measure of 'biological ageing'.
Although heart disease and cancers are more common as one gets older, not everyone gets them -- and some people get them at an earlier age. It has been suspected that the occurrence of these diseases may in part be related to some people "biologically" ageing more quickly than others. As DNA cannot be changed by lifestyle or environmental factors, an association of these genetic variants which affect telomere length with a disease also would suggest a causal link between telomere length and that disease.
Telomeres: What causes biological aging? If you are wondering how your cells age, look no further than the ends of your chromosomes. Environmental factors, such as ultraviolet rays, poor diet, and alcohol, as well as psychological factors including stress, are putting our cells at risk of significant damage.