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.
© 2013 The Author(s) European Journal of Neurology © 2013 EFNS.