Endogenous Repair

From "Stem Cells: Untold Stories,” a conversation between Doris Taylor and Krista Tippett, Speaking of Faith, October 29, 2009:

Building Hearts + Lengthening Telomeres from Speaking of Faith on Vimeo.

"What we think impacts who we are. We know that. We know that, whether it's what we think makes us grumpy or what we think makes us happy. And we're learning that those have an impact on our physical body. Stress ages your stem cells. There's science out there from some of the best laboratories in the world showing that the way a cell knows how old it is, is it has a little piece of DNA, chromosome, right? On the end of that chromosome is a little piece of DNA called a telomere. And every time your cell divides, that gets shorter. And when it reaches a certain point, it says, "Oops. I'm old. Time to die." Well, stress makes that piece of DNA get shorter. So stress literally ages your stem cells. If you believe that's true, and it is, it also ought to be possible to reverse stress and make your cells younger...

[Matthieu Ricard] is doing some studies with some people at the University of Wisconsin where he and a number of his colleagues meditate, and as they meditate they measure differences in their brainwaves. And I basically said I would predict that those very same things that when you meditate and you have positive brainwave changes would also have an effect on your stem cells. He very graciously -- and this is an N of one -- let us measure cells in his blood before and after meditation. And what we found was a huge increase in the number of positive stem cells in blood. Largest increase I've ever seen, after fifteen minutes of meditation...

It's all about endogenous repair...

We have inflammation going on inside our blood vessels, inside our organs, inside our tissues. And I think those are nature's cues to say, "Send me cells." Well, I would also say that meditation is essentially doing that without the inflammation. It's nature's way of sending those cells to the sites where you need them in a way to turn down the negative aspects of stress. So stress in my mind is another word for inflammation. I would say inflammation is the physiologic consequence of stress."