Schizophrenia is a complex mental illness affecting the normal functioning of the brain, interfering with the ability to think, feel and act. It can be conceptualised as a syndrome of accelerated ageing, with early onset of cardiovascular disease and high rates of premature mortality. Telomere attrition increases with oxidative stress and is considered a biomarker of ageing. Previous studies have assessed abnormalities in telomere length in schizophrenia, but the results are inconsistent. The present study used a case-control design to assess whether people with schizophrenia have shortened telomeres, indicative of accelerated ageing. Subjects were all male, aged 25-35years, living in the same urban region of Adelaide, South Australia. Telomere length was measured using a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method. We found significantly shorter telomeres in people with schizophrenia relative to healthy controls. This is the first study to show telomere attrition among people with schizophrenia in Australia. Shorter telomere length may indicate the common pathways that schizophrenia shares with other neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders associated with increased cellular senescence. Further well-controlled larger studies in people with schizophrenia are required to fully understand (i) the role of variables that have the potential to modulate telomere length such as use of antipsychotic drugs, medical conditions, parental age, smoking, alcohol abuse and use of illicit drugs; (ii) effective treatments to slow telomere erosion and (iii) mechanisms responsible for accelerating and reducing telomere damage.
Keywords: DNA; Diet; Lifestyle; Psychosis; Schizophrenia; Telomerase; Telomere.
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