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Blood. 2001 Feb 15;97(4):895-900.

Telomere length in leukocyte subpopulations of patients with aplastic anemia.

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Terry Fox Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency, and the Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


In most human cells, the average length of telomere repeats at the ends of chromosomes provides indirect information about their mitotic history. To study the turnover of stem cells in patients with bone marrow failure syndromes, the telomere length in peripheral blood granulocytes and lymphocytes from patients with aplastic anemia (AA, n = 56) and hemolytic paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (n = 6) was analyzed relative to age-matched controls by means of fluorescence in situ hybridization and flow cytometry. The telomere lengths in granulocytes from patients with AA were found to be significantly shorter than those in age-adjusted controls (P =.001). However, surprisingly, telomere length in granulocytes from AA patients who had recovered after immunosuppressive therapy did not differ significantly from controls, whereas untreated patients and nonresponders with persistent severe pancytopenia showed marked and significant telomere shortening. These results support extensive proliferation of hematopoietic stem cells in subgroups of AA patients. Because normal individuals show significant variation in telomere length, individual measurements in blood cells from AA patients may be of limited value. Whether sequential telomere length measurements can be used as a prognostic tool in this group of disorders remains to be clarified. (Blood. 2001;97:895-900)

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