Telomeres can be considered a marker of biological aging. Studies have suggested that telomere shortening may be associated with aging related diseases and also psychiatric disorders.
Investigate whether bipolar disorder (BD) and its clinical specificities are associated with telomere shortening.
Eighty-five BD patients and 95 healthy controls were paired for age, sex and educational level. Volunteers were submitted to a psychiatric interview and clinical evaluation. Patients and controls were compared as a whole sample and within specific telomere range (short and long telomeres). Intrapatients group comparison involved type of BD and comorbidities. A Real Time Quantitative PCR was performed in order to verify leukocytes telomere length.
Bipolar disorder patients presented shorter telomeres when compared to controls (p<0.001). However, there was no significant difference in telomere length between different BD subtypes. When two groups of patients (long and short telomeres) were compared, only panic disorder showed an association with telomere categories (χ(2)=6.91; p=0.009; OR=4.27).
It was not possible to collect information about time since diagnosis, which limited conclusions regarding BD chronicity and telomere length. Furthermore, medication interference upon telomere length was not controlled.
Results suggest that BD is associated with reduced telomere length. Also, panic comorbidity may represent an additive risk factor. Understanding aspects that contribute to determination of telomere size in bipolar patients allows us to understand what the impact on telomeres size is, which is a health vulnerability marker.