Long leukocyte telomere length at diagnosis is a risk factor for dementia progression in idiopathic parkinsonism

PLoS One. 2014 Dec 12;9(12):e113387. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113387. eCollection 2014.


Telomere length (TL) is regarded as a marker of cellular aging due to the gradual shortening by each cell division, but is influenced by a number of factors including oxidative stress and inflammation. Parkinson's disease and atypical forms of parkinsonism occur mainly in the elderly, with oxidative stress and inflammation in afflicted cells. In this study the relationship between blood TL and prognosis of 168 patients with idiopathic parkinsonism (136 Parkinson's disease [PD], 17 Progressive Supranuclear Palsy [PSP], and 15 Multiple System Atrophy [MSA]) and 30 controls was investigated. TL and motor and cognitive performance were assessed at baseline (diagnosis) and repeatedly up to three to five years follow up. No difference in TL between controls and patients was shown at baseline, nor any significant difference in TL stability or attrition during follow up. Interestingly, a significant relationship between TL at diagnosis and cognitive phenotype at follow up in PD and PSP patients was found, with longer mean TL at diagnosis in patients that developed dementia within three years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple System Atrophy / genetics
  • Multiple System Atrophy / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Prognosis
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / genetics
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / pathology
  • Telomere / metabolism*

Grant support

This work was supported by grants from the Swedish Research Council (LF, GR), the Swedish Parkinson Foundation (LF), the Swedish Parkinson's Disease Association (LF), the Swedish Cancer Society (GR), Umeå University (LF, GR), the Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience at Umeå University Hospital (LF), and Västerbotten County Council (ALF) (LF, GR). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.