Decreased Leukocyte Telomere Length (LTL) Is Associated With Stroke but Unlikely to Be Causative

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 5;8(7):e68254. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068254. Print 2013.


Aims: Interindividual variability in telomere length is highly heritable. Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) shortening has been shown to be associated with the process of atherosclerosis. But whether the inheritance of LTL is related to stroke is still unclear. The aim of this study was to test if telomere shortening was associated with stroke and whether this association was mainly due to inheritance or acquired cardiovascular risk factors.

Methods: Our study was focused on stroke in patients and their siblings. 450 subjects were recruited into this study: 150 patients with ischemic stroke as case group, 150 siblings of patients free of stroke (sibling group) and 150 healthy people as normal control. LTL was measured by real-time Polymerase Chain Reactions. The association between LTL and the cardiovascular risk factors was also determined.

Results: A significant decrease of LTL was found in case group when comparing with sibling (0.92±0.77 vs 1.68±1.24, p<0.001) and normal groups (0.92±0.77 vs 1.95±1.07, p<0.001), but no significant difference was found between sibling group and healthy control (p = 0.330). Shorter telomere length was independently associated with hypertension (p = 0.029, OR = 2.189, 95%CI:1.084-4.421), recent social pressure (p = 0.001, OR = 3.121, 95%CI:1.597-6.101), age (p = 0.004, OR = 1.055, 95%CI:1.017-1.093), HDL (p = 0.022, OR = 0.227, 95%CI:0.064-0.810) and diabetes (p = 0.018, OR = 3.174, 95%CI:1.221-8.252). Additionally, shortened length of telomere (p = 0.017, OR = 3.996, 95%CI:1.283-12.774) was an independent risk biomarker for stroke among case and sibling groups.

Conclusion: The present study has demonstrated that decreased LTL might be associated with ischemic stroke but unlikely to be causative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Siblings
  • Stroke / genetics*
  • Telomere Shortening*


  • Biomarkers

Grant support

This paper was supported by Medical Scientific Research Foundation of Guangdong Province, China (No: A2009589). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.