To explore racial differences in newborn telomere length (TL) and the effect moderation of the sex of the infant while establishing the methodology for the use of newborn blood spots for TL analyses.
Pregnant mothers were recruited from the Greater New Orleans area. TL was determined via monochrome multiplex quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction on DNA extracted from infant blood spots. Demographic data and other covariates were obtained via maternal report before the infant's birth. Birth outcome data were obtained from medical records and maternal report.
Black infants weighed significantly less than white infants at birth and had significantly longer TL than white infants (P=.0134), with the strongest effect observed in black female infants. No significant differences in gestational age were present.
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Significant racial differences in TL were present at birth in this sample, even after we controlled for a range of birth outcomes and demographic factors. Because longer initial TL is predictive of more rapid TL attrition across the life course, these findings provide evidence that, even at birth, biological vulnerability to early life stress may differ by race and sex.