Baerlocher GM, Vulto I, de Jong G, Lansdorp PM Terry Fox Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency, 675 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5Z 1L3, Canada. . Nat Protoc. 2006;1(5):2365-76.
Telomeres have emerged as crucial cellular elements in aging and various diseases including cancer. To measure the average length of telomere repeats in cells, we describe our protocols that use fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) with labeled peptide nucleic acid (PNA) probes specific for telomere repeats in combination with fluorescence measurements by flow cytometry (flow FISH). Flow FISH analysis can be performed using commercially available flow cytometers, and has the unique advantage over other methods for measuring telomere length of providing multi-parameter information on the length of telomere repeats in thousands of individual cells. The accuracy and reproducibility of the measurements is augmented by the automation of most pipetting (aspiration and dispensing) steps, and by including an internal standard (control cells) with a known telomere length in every tube. The basic protocol for the analysis of nucleated blood cells from 22 different individuals takes about 12 h spread over 2-3 days.