Telomere Length Among the Elderly and Oldest-Old

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2005 Oct;8(5):425-32. doi: 10.1375/183242705774310079.


Human chromosomes terminate in a number of repeats of the sequence TTAGGG. At birth, each chromosome end is equipped with approximately 15 kb of telomere sequence, but this sequence is shortened during each cell division. In cell cultures telomere shortening is associated with senescence, a phenomenon that has also been observed in normal adult tissues, indicating that telomere loss is associated with organismal ageing. Previous work has established that the rate of telomere loss in humans is age dependent, and recent work shows a sex-specific difference in telomere length and shortening in individuals over the age span of 20 to 75 years. Here, terminal restriction fragment lengths on DNA purified from whole blood were measured to examine the mean telomere length in a cross-sectional cohort of 816 Danish individuals of age 73 to 101 years. In this age group, females show a linear correlation between telomere length and age, whereas the pattern tends to be nonlinear (quadratic in age) for males. This difference in telomere length dynamics between the 2 sexes may be caused by several different mechanisms, including differences in selection by mortality, differences in leukocyte population or different telomerase expression pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*