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Aging Cell. 2019 Dec;18(6):e13017. doi: 10.1111/acel.13017. Epub 2019 Aug 24.

Telomere length and aging-related outcomes in humans: A Mendelian randomization study in 261,000 older participants.

Author information

1
Department of Community Medicine and Health Care, Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering, Institute for Systems Genomics, University of Connecticut Health, Farmington, CT, USA.
2
Epidemiology and Public Health Group, University of Exeter Medical School, RILD Level 3, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Exeter, UK.
3
Center on Aging, School of Medicine, University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT, USA.
4
National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Abstract

Inherited genetic variation influencing leukocyte telomere length provides a natural experiment for testing associations with health outcomes, more robust to confounding and reverse causation than observational studies. We tested associations between genetically determined telomere length and aging-related health outcomes in a large European ancestry older cohort. Data were from n = 379,758 UK Biobank participants aged 40-70, followed up for mean of 7.5 years (n = 261,837 participants aged 60 and older by end of follow-up). Thirteen variants strongly associated with longer telomere length in peripheral white blood cells were analyzed using Mendelian randomization methods with Egger plots to assess pleiotropy. Variants in TERC, TERT, NAF1, OBFC1, and RTEL1 were included, and estimates were per 250 base pairs increase in telomere length, approximately equivalent to the average change over a decade in the general white population. We highlighted associations with false discovery rate-adjusted p-values smaller than .05. Genetically determined longer telomere length was associated with lowered risk of coronary heart disease (CHD; OR = 0.95, 95% CI: 0.92-0.98) but raised risk of cancer (OR = 1.11, 95% CI: 1.06-1.16). Little evidence for associations were found with parental lifespan, centenarian status of parents, cognitive function, grip strength, sarcopenia, or falls. The results for those aged 60 and older were similar in younger or all participants. Genetically determined telomere length was associated with increased risk of cancer and reduced risk of CHD but little change in other age-related health outcomes. Telomere lengthening may offer little gain in later-life health status and face increasing cancer risks.

KEYWORDS:

TERT; UK Biobank; anti-aging; cellular senescence; centenarians; frailty; longevity; sarcopenia

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