The length of the chromosome ends, telomeres, is widely accepted as a biomarker of aging. However, the dynamic of the relationship between telomere length and hematopoietic parameters in the normal aging process, which is of particular interest with respect to age-related anemia, is not well understood.
We have analyzed the relationship between relative leukocyte telomere length (rLTL) and several hematological parameters in the older group of the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II) participants. This paper also compares rLTL between both BASE-II age groups (22-37 and 60-83 years).
Genomic DNA was extracted from peripheral blood leukocytes of BASE-II participants and used to determine rLTL by a quantitative PCR protocol. Standard methods were used to determine blood parameters, and the WHO criteria were used to identify anemic participants.
Telomere length data were available for 444 younger participants (28.4 ± 3.1 years old; 52% women) and 1,460 older participants (68.2 ± 3.7 years old; 49.4% women). rLTL was significantly shorter in BASE-II participants of the older group (p = 3.7 × 10-12) and in women (p = 4.2 × 10-31). rLTL of older men exhibited a statistically significant, positive partial correlation with mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH; p = 0.012) and MCH concentration (p = 0.002). While these correlations were only observed in men, the rLTL of older women was negatively correlated with the number of thrombocytes (p = 0.015) in the same type of analysis. Among all older participants, 6% met the criteria to be categorized as 'anemic'; however, there was no association between anemia and rLTL.
In the present study, we have detected isolated correlations between rLTL and hematological parameters; however, in all cases, rLTL explained only a small part of the variation of the analyzed parameters. In disagreement with some other studies showing similar data, we interpret the association between rLTL and some of the hematological parameters studied here to be at most marginal. This applies also to the role of rLTL in anemia, at least in the age group investigated here. Since BASE-II is yet another large cohort in which women have on average shorter telomeres than men, this finding will be addressed in the discussion with respect to the ongoing debate on gender differences in telomere length.