Thanks to Matt, I have been alerted to a new product called Telomera by Donnell Super Skin ($85). This brand new anti-wrinkle cream contains the now ubiquitous Argireline, Matrixyl 3000 and retinol. But what really caught Matt’s attention and piqued my interest was that it features a botanical active called astragalus that is supposed to act on the telomeres and extend cell life.

Telomeres were part of a Nobel prize winning hoohah back in 2009. This is new and complex science, but in a nutshell telomeres allow cells to distinguish chromosome ends from broken DNA and they shorten every time a cell divides. When they become very short, they trigger cell crisis and cell death. Anti-aging ingredients, such as teprenone (also called Renovage) try to address this by stabilizing the telomeres. Products with teprenone can be found by clicking here.

Telomera by Donnell uses the astragalus plant and this, according to Donnell, works in a somewhat different way by aiding aging cells at the shortened, frayed telomeres, where it raises levels of the enzyme telomerase.

Astragalus, commonly known as milk vetch root, is one of those ingredients that seems to have been appropriated by all sorts of dubious folks – from longevity nuts (who spend their – hopefully extending – lives on message boards exchanging tips for living to 150) to weightloss pill pedlers. This is unfortunate because it does seem to have a good scientific pedigree and researchers have established that the isoflavins in astragalus can regulate diabetes, polysaccharides boost the immune system, and there are eight antioxidant flavenoids and a host of amino acids (source). Actually, the roll call goes on with studies claiming it can combat senility, boost energy and make tea.

But let’s get back to telomeres. Well, the evidence is promising. In 2008, a UCLA AIDS Institute study has found that a chemical from the astragalus root, frequently used in Chinese herbal therapy, can prevent or slow this progressive telomere shortening, Apparently, a great deal of cell division must take place within the immune system for the system to function properly. Happily, when fighting infections, our T-cells can turn on telomerase enzyme and prevent the telomeres from shortening – unless, of course, you have AIDS. The UCLA scientists isolated a chemical they call TAT2 from astragalus and found that it did enhance telomerase activity and antiviral functions.

A Chinese study also isolated two isomers from astragalus and documented the slow down of telomere shortening rate, the reduction of DNA damage, and the improvement of DNA repair ability.

Astragalus is in a cream called Repair DNA and, interestingly, it is the only ingredient that differentiates from another cream with teprenone by CSI. Whether or not a dash of astragalus extract in an anti-wrinkle face cream has any effect, I don’t really know. Nor do I yet know (I’ve written to ask) the full ingredients in Telomera.