The association between early-life relative telomere length and childhood neurodevelopment

Neurotoxicology. 2018 Mar;65:22-27. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2018.01.005. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Purpose: To examine the association between telomere length and neurodevelopment in children.

Methods: We examined the relationship between relative telomere length (rTL) and neurodevelopmental outcomes at 9 and 30 months, and 5 years of age in children enrolled in the Seychelles Child Development Study Nutrition Cohort 1 (NC1). Relative telomere length was measured in cord blood and in child blood at age five. Multivariable linear regression examined associations between neurodevelopmental outcomes and rTL adjusting for relevant covariates.

Results: Mean rTL was 1.18 at birth and 0.71 at age five. Increased cord blood rTL was associated with better scores on two neurodevelopmental tests, the psychomotor developmental index (β = 4.01; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.17, 7.85) at age 30 months, and the Woodcock Johnson test of achievement letter-word score (β = 2.88; CI = 1.21-4.56) at age five. The Woodcock Johnson test of achievement letter-word score remained statistically significant after two outliers were excluded (β = 2.83; CI = 0.69, 4.97); the psychomotor developmental index did not (β = 3.62; CI = -1.28, 8.52). None of the neurodevelopmental outcomes at age five were associated with five-year rTL.

Conclusion: Although increased cord blood rTL was associated with better test scores for a few neurodevelopmental outcomes, this study found little consistent evidence of an association between rTL and neurodevelopment. Future studies with a larger sample size, longer follow-up, and other relevant biological markers (e.g. oxidative stress) are needed to clarify the role of rTL in neurodevelopment and its relevance as a potential surrogate measure for oxidative stress in the field of developmental neurotoxicity.

Keywords: Children; Cognition; Epidemiology; Language.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Telomere / physiology*
  • Telomere Homeostasis / physiology