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Dev Comp Immunol. 2008;32(12):1409-15. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2008.06.007. Epub 2008 Jul 9.

The effect of age and telomere length on immune function in the horse.

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  • 1Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, Department of Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546-0099, USA.


Telomeres, specialized structures present at the ends of linear eukaryotic chromosomes, function to maintain chromosome stability and integrity. Telomeres shorten with each cell division eventually leading to replicative senescence, a process thought to be associated with age-related decline in immune function. We hypothesized that shortened PBMC telomere length is a factor contributing to immunosenescence of the aged horse. Telomere length was assessed in 19 horses ranging in age from 1 to 25 years. Mitogen-induced 3H-thymidine incorporation, total serum IgG, and pro-inflammatory cytokine expression was also determined for each horse. Relative telomere length (RTL) was highly correlated with overall age. RTL was positively correlated with 3H-thymidine incorporation and total IgG. Expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines was negatively correlated with RTL. These measures were also correlated with age, as expected. However, RTL was not correlated with immunosenescence and inflammaging in the oldest horse.

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