This unorthodox overview of telomere biology is well worth your time: "Telomeres are highly dynamic structures that adjust the cellular response to stress and growth stimulation based on previous cell divisions. This critical function is accomplished by progressive telomere shortening and DNA damage responses activated by chromosome ends without sufficient telomere repeats. Repair of critically short telomeres by telomerase or recombination is limited in most somatic cells, and apoptosis or cellular senescence is triggered when too many uncapped telomeres accumulate. The chance of the latter increases as the average telomere length decreases. The average telomere length is set and maintained in cells of the germ line that typically express high levels of telomerase. In somatic cells, the telomere length typically declines with age, posing a barrier to tumor growth but also contributing to loss of cells with age."