Beyond average: potential for measurement of short telomeres

Aging (Albany NY). 2012 Jun;4(6):379-92. doi: 10.18632/aging.100462.


The length of telomeres, and in particular the abundance of short telomeres, has been proposed as a biomarker of aging and of general health status. A wide variety of studies show the association of short telomeres with age related pathologies and cancer, as well as with lifespan and mortality. These facts highlight the importance of measuring telomere length in human populations and by using reliable methods to uncover the association between telomere length and human disease. This review discusses the advantages and drawbacks of current telomere length measurement methods. Most of these methods provide mean telomere length values per cell or per sample and very few of them are able to measure the abundance of short telomeres, which are the ones indicative of telomere dysfunction. The information provided by each method and their suitability for different studies is discussed here.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Genetic Techniques*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*