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Longevity Briefs: Blood telomere length good proxy for multiple tissues types

Posted on 15 September 2020

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Telomere degradation has been significantly associated with increased risk of developing age-related disease, and is considered one of the hallmarks of aging. Telomeres are short strands of DNA which protect the chromosomal DNA from degradation. Almost all studies into the relationship and health focus on just one tissue type: blood.

“Most studies on human telomere length focus on tissue types that are easy to collect from living subjects, like whole blood or saliva. We wanted to see how well the length of telomeres found in whole blood cells aligned with those found in other tissues.”

First author Dr. Kathryn Demanelis, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago

What did the researchers do: Using postmortem tissue samples from 952 donors in the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project, the research team based at the University of Chicago, studied the difference in telomere length across multiple different tissues to better understand variation and telomere length in various tissue types.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: The most notable finding was that blood cell telomere length was similar to the telomere length of 15 out of 23 tissue types. Confirming that blood telomere length is a good proxy for telomere length of more inaccessible tissue types: brain and kidney. The study also revealed that there is a correlation in telomere length across tissues, but that in the testes and cerebellum, aging is not correlated with telomere shortening.

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