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DNA 'Telomere' Length Tied to Aging, Death Risk
Date:11/8/2012

American Society of Human Genetics.

The authors note that telomeres serve to protect all of the 46 chromosomes found at the human cellular level. And sufficient telomere length is known to be critical in a cell's ability to multiply.

The current effort involved men and women in the northern California region who were enrolled in an ongoing study on genetics and aging. The average age of the participants was 63.

Using saliva samples, the team first set out to genotype 675,000 telomere participant biomarkers. In turn, they cross-analyzed biomarker status with data contained in the electronic medical records, as well as with information from demographic and behavioral surveys that had been conducted two years prior to saliva collection.

The investigators focused on demographic factors that might influence the aging process, as well as lifestyle and behavior factors such as education level, and smoking and drinking habits.

Education levels were linked to longer telomeres while smoking and drinking were linked to shorter telomeres. Depression and other mental disorders did not, however, appear to be similarly linked.

The team determined that shorter telomere length does indeed appear to be associated, on its own, with patient longevity.

In addition, other than during the period of young adulthood, women were found to have longer telomeres than men, the researchers noted. Blacks were also found to have notably longer telomeres relative to other racial/ethnic groups.

The team said more research is needed to see to what degree a patient's prior history of disease and ethnicity might affect telomere status and mortality.

Commenting on the study, Joseph Lee, a human geneticist and associate professor of clinical epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, said that the current effort goes a long way towards validating previous findings.

"Although an association between
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