Context: Telomeres are structures at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. They help maintain genomic stability. High oxidative stress can lead to accelerated telomere shortening, which causes premature cell senescence. This is implicated in the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D). For this reason, we hypothesize that telomere shortening can characterize T2D.
Methods: We investigated the association between leukocyte telomere length (LTL) and T2D in a retrospective case-control study with a sample of 4016 Chinese Han subjects (1936 unrelated T2D cases and 2080 controls). Logistic regression analysis was performed to evaluate the association between LTL and T2D, adjusted for age and gender. Multivariate linear regression analysis was used to test for any association of LTL with a number of clinical, demographic, and diabetes-associated variables.
Results: Telomere repeat length (T)/copy number of a single-copy gene (S) ratios (T/S) of LTL were found to be significantly shorter in T2D cases [1.00 T/S, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.99-1.02] compared with controls (1.08 T/S, 95% CI = 1.06-1.09) over a wide age range (odds ratio of diabetes for a 1-U decrease in ln-transformed TL = 1.52; 95% CI = 1.23-1.88; P = 0.0001).
Conclusion: Our research demonstrates association between shorter LTL and T2D in a population from mainland China. Our study suggests that shorter LTL might be associated with T2D in a manner independent of smoking and drinking habits or the time of T2D onset time.