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Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Feb 1;169(3):323-9. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn338. Epub 2008 Dec 4.

Leukocyte telomere dynamics: longitudinal findings among young adults in the Bogalusa Heart Study.

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The Center of Human Development and Aging, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ 07103, USA.


Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is ostensibly a biomarker of human aging. Cross-sectional analyses have found that LTL is relatively short in a host of aging-related diseases. These studies have also provided indirect estimates of age-dependent LTL shortening. In this paper, the authors report findings of the first comprehensive longitudinal study of 450 whites and 185 African Americans in Louisiana (aged 31.4 and 37.4 years at baseline (1995-1996) and follow-up (2001-2006) examinations, respectively) participating in the Bogalusa Heart Study. Rate of change in LTL was highly variable among individuals, with some displaying a paradoxical gain in LTL during the follow-up period. The most striking observation was that age-dependent LTL shortening was proportional to LTL at baseline examination. At both baseline and follow-up examinations, African Americans had longer LTLs than whites, and smokers had shorter LTLs than nonsmokers. The longer LTL in African Americans than in whites explained in part the faster rate of LTL shortening observed among African Americans. These findings underscore the complexity of leukocyte telomere dynamics in vivo and suggest that determinants in addition to the "end-replication problem" contribute to telomere shortening in vivo.

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