Dr Rita Effros spoke to All Things Considered this last weekend about her research into telomeres and cortisol. In the OHS field this is gibberish until you consider the implications of the research outside of the lab. According to the UCLA website “cells of persons under chronic stress have shorter telomeres.” Dr Effros said
“When the body is under stress, it boosts production of cortisol to support a ‘fight or flight’ response. If the hormone remains elevated in the bloodstream for long periods of time, though, it wears down the immune system. We are testing therapeutic ways of enhancing telomerase levels to help the immune system ward off cortisol’s effect. If we’re successful, one day a pill may exist to strengthen the immune system’s ability to weather chronic emotional stress.”
Dr Effros findings could one day reduce the long-term stress experienced by carers of chronically ill family members, soldiers, air traffic controllers, astronauts and people who drive long distances.