Telomere biology in healthy aging and disease

Pflugers Arch. 2010 Jan;459(2):259-68. doi: 10.1007/s00424-009-0728-1. Epub 2009 Sep 10.


Aging is a biological process that affects most cells, organisms and species. Telomeres have been postulated as a universal biological clock that shortens in parallel with aging in cells. Telomeres are located at the end of the chromosomes and consist of an evolutionary conserved repetitive nucleotide sequence ranging in length from a few hundred base pairs in yeast till several kilo base pairs in vertebrates. Telomeres associate with shelterin proteins and form a complex protecting the chromosomal deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from recognition by the DNA damage-repair system. Due to the "end-replication problem" telomeres shorten with each mitotic cycle resulting in cumulative telomere attrition during aging. When telomeres reach a critical length the cell will not further undergo cell divisions and become senescent or otherwise dysfunctional. Telomere shortening has not only been linked to aging but also to several age associated diseases, including tumorigenesis, coronary artery disease, and heart failure. In the current review, we will discuss the role of telomere biology in relation to aging and aging associated diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging, Premature / genetics
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics*
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / genetics
  • Heart Failure / genetics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Telomere / physiology*