This web page was produced as an assignment for an undergraduate course at Davidson College.


Aging in the Popular Press vs. Scientific Journals

Major mainstream publications, like TIME1 and Scientific American2 have done stories on the genetic research of aging, specifically on the TERC gene. These resources provide a nice overall summary of linking TERC to aging, crediting working scientists in the field with their research, and giving stunning statistics like
“The telomeres of people carrying one copy of the variant looked on average three to four years older, according to their lengths, than those of someone the same chronological age without the variant. There also was a gene dosage effect: Two copies of the variant (one inherited from each parent) resulted in an additive aging effect of six to eight years—meaning that a 50-year-old carrying two copies of the variant had the telomeres of someone aged 58.”2
which gives the public a sense of the importance of this kind of research and the surprising finding that can rise from it. However, when compared to a scientific journal, like PubMed3, they don’t focus on how these figures were obtain and are much more general. They emphasize the aesthetic aging and how the genes are related as opposed to biological aging (meaning cellular damage). The PubMed entries usually relate a certain mutant to a certain age-related disease or other topic of interest, like specific variants associated with shorter legnth4. And it is surprising how many diseases are associated with TERC, such as many cancers5 and many other diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis6. There is a myriad of scientific articles on databases like these, which are more specific, elaborating on method and providing statistical analysis.


The popular press articles sufficed to generally inform the public about the importance of scientific research and the significance of these genes. However, scientific journals provide a more in depth analysis, and are very useful tools to scientists and researchers. Feel free to explore the links provided to further research these genes and the history behind them.




1 TIME “Scientists Get Closer to Understanding Why We Age”:,8599,1963637,00.html

2 Scientific American “Researchers Identify Genetic Variant Linked to Faster Biological Aging”:

3 PubMed articles on TERC:

4 “A common variant in the telomerase RNA component is associated with short telomere length”:

5 Multiple genetic variants in telomere pathway genes and breast cancer risk:

6 Telomerase mutations in families with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis:


Davidson Genomics


The Aging Gene

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