Questioning causal involvement of telomeres in aging

Ageing Res Rev. 2015 Nov;24(Pt B):191-6. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2015.08.002. Epub 2015 Aug 21.


Multiple studies have demonstrated that telomere length predicts mortality and that telomeres shorten with age. Although rarely acknowledged these associations do not dictate causality. I review telomerase knockout and overexpression studies and find little support that telomeres cause aging. In addition, the causality hypothesis assumes that there is a critical telomere length at which senescence is induced. This generates the prediction that variance in telomere length decreases with age. In contrast, using meta-analysis of human data, I find no such decline. Inferring the causal involvement of telomeres in aging from current knowledge is therefore speculative and could hinder scientific progress.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Human; Meta-analysis; Mortality; Senescence; Telomere length.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Causality
  • Epidemiologic Measurements
  • Humans
  • Telomere Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology*