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Mech Ageing Dev. 2011 Nov-Dec;132(11-12):568-72. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2011.10.003. Epub 2011 Oct 12.

Leukocyte telomere length and physical ability among Danish twins age 70+.

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Danish Aging Research Center, University of Southern Denmark, JB Winslowsvej 9B, DK-5000 Odense C, Denmark.


Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) shortens with age and is potentially a biomarker of human aging. We examined the relation of LTL with physical ability and cognitive function in 548 same-sex twins from the Longitudinal Study of Aging Danish Twins. LTL was measured by Southern blots of the terminal restriction fragments (TRF). Physical ability was evaluated using a self reported scale of 11 questions, while cognitive function was scored by MMSE and a cognitive composite score sensitive to age-related decline. A random intercept model revealed a positive, significant association between LTL and physical ability. For every unit increase in physical ability score, LTL increased by 0.066 kb (p = 0.01), equal to approximately three years of age-dependent LTL shortening. A matched case-co-twin design showed that the group consisting of the twins from each pair with the longer LTL also displayed better physical ability (p < 0.01). Moreover, the intra-pair difference in LTL was associated with intra-pair difference in physical ability (p < 0.01), confirming the association. However, we found no association between cognitive function and LTL. The LTL-physical ability association in the elderly provides further support to the premise that LTL is an index of somatic fitness in the narrow context of human physical health.

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