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Anticancer Res. 2005 Jul-Aug;25(4):3011-21.

Telomere attrition as ageing biomarker.

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Department of Molecular Biotechnology, Faculty for Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Belgium.


Telomeres, the tandem-repeated hexamers at the termini of mammalian chromosomes, form protective complexes in association with specific proteins that together with telomerase, a specialised telomere-synthesizing enzyme, regulate telomere length. Telomere shortening is associated with cellular senescence and is implicated in tumorigenesis and cancer. Hence, mean telomere length has emerged as a replicative clock within each population of cells and the tissues and organs they build up in vitro and, consequently, as a biomarker for biological ageing in vivo. Chronological ageing per se does not parallel biological ageing, yet accurate and reliable biomarkers are lacking to distinguish between them. The question remains as to whether telomere dynamics is a determinant or merely a predictor of human biological age over and above chronological ageing. Although several reports have suggested a link between telomere attrition and ageing phenotypes and disorders, both reference values and a complete set of determinants are missing. Within this review, current evidence and knowledge on telomere length and telomere erosion rates reported, are summarised.

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