Objective: Telomere length (TL) has important consequences for early disease and lifelong health. However, few studies have examined determinants of TL at birth.
Study design: Here we test associations between cord blood TL and parental and birth factors associated with exposure to stress and indicative of healthy intrauterine life in Latino infants. We tested associations that were significant in bivariate analysis in a multivariate regression model to identify independent predictors for shorter TL at birth.
Result: Two novel and independent predictors emerged in our analysis of 54 infants. Female gender was associated with longer TL by ~350 base pairs (adjusted β-coefficient for male gender=-369.57, (95% confidence interval, -718.21 to (-)20.92), P=0.02); rho=-0.26, P=0.057). Increased maternal high-school education, as indicated by a high-school diploma or additional education beyond high school, was also associated with longer TL, by ~500 base pairs (adjusted β-coefficient for high-school diploma or greater=505.68 (95% confidence interval, 151.69 to 859.68), P<0.01); rho=0.36, P<0.01). Increasing head circumference trended towards statistical significance in association with longer TL (adjusted β-coefficient = 7.33; 95% confidence interval -0.52 to 15.18; P=0.07). When we removed all infants who had been exposed to high oxidative stress in pregnancy including those exposed to maternal hypertension, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and those who were low birth weight or preterm birth (n=7), increasing birth weight percentile was associated with longer TL (adjusted β-coefficient=8.04 (95% confidence interval 0.07 to 16.00), P=0.048).
Conclusion: Shorter TL at birth is associated with being male, low maternal education (less than a high school degree), and a trend towards lower birth weight and head circumference. Given the critical role of long TL in predicting health and disease, these findings contribute to the growing literature attempting to understand determinants of TL.