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Shorter telomere length in peripheral blood leukocytes is associated with childhood autism.

Authors: Zongchang Z. Li, Jinsong J. Tang, Hong H. Li, Shan S. Chen, Ying Y. He, Yanhui Y. Liao, Zhen Z. Wei, Guobin G. Wan, Xi X. Xiang, Kun K. Xia, Xiaogang X. Chen
Published: 11/17/2014, Scientific reports


Telomeres are protective chromosomal structures that play a key role in preserving genomic stability. Epidemiologic studies have shown that the abnormal telomere length in leukocytes is associated with some mental disorders and age-related diseases. However, the association between leukocyte telomere length and autism has not been investigated. Here we investigated the possible association between relative telomere length (RTL) in peripheral blood leukocytes and childhood autism by using an established real-time polymerase chain reaction method. We observed significantly shorter RTL in patients with childhood autism than in controls (p = 0.006). Individuals with shorter RTL had a significantly increased presence of childhood autism compared with those who had long RTL. In patients, we found that family training interventions have a significant effect on telomere length (P = 0.012), but no correlations between RTL and clinical features (paternal age, maternal age, age of onset, illness of duration, CARS score and ABC score) were observed in this study. These results provided the first evidence that shorter leukocytes telomere length is significantly associated with childhood autism. The molecular mechanism underlying telomere length may be implicated in the development of autism.

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