Telomere length and Parkinson's disease in men: a nested case-control study

Eur J Neurol. 2014;21(1):93-9. doi: 10.1111/ene.12252. Epub 2013 Sep 7.


Background and purpose: Telomere shortening has been implicated in neurodegenerative disorders. However, available data on the association between telomere length and Parkinson's disease (PD) are inconclusive.

Methods: A nested case-control design was used amongst men participating in the prospective Physicians' Health Study. A large proportion of participants provided blood samples in 1997 and they were followed through 2010. Men with self-reported PD were age-matched to controls in a 1:2 ratio. Quantitative PCR was used to determine the telomere repeat copy number to single gene copy number ratio (TSR) in genomic DNA extracted from peripheral blood leukocytes. TSR was used as a measure for relative telomere length (RTL) in our analyses. Conditional logistic regression was used to determine the risk of PD associated with RTL.

Results: Data on RTL were available from 408 cases and 809 controls. Median TSR was shorter in controls than in cases (47.7 vs. 50.2; P = 0.02). The age-adjusted odds ratio (OR) for PD was 0.66 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.46-0.95; Ptrend over quartiles 0.02] comparing the lowest to the highest quartile. The pattern of association was unchanged when comparing RTL below versus above the median (age-adjusted OR 0.75; 95% CI 0.59-0.96). Associations were similar after additional adjustment for many covariates.

Conclusion: Contrary to what was expected, in this large nested case-control study amongst men shorter telomeres were associated with reduced PD risk. Future research on the nature of this counterintuitive association is warranted.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; epidemiology; nested case−control study; telomere length.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Telomere / genetics*