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Shorter telomere length is linked to brain atrophy and white matter hyperintensities.

Authors: Mikael M. Wikgren, Thomas T. Karlsson, Hedvig H. Söderlund, Annelie A. Nordin, Göran G. Roos, Lars-Göran LG. Nilsson, Rolf R. Adolfsson, Karl-Fredrik KF. Norrback
Published: 11/14/2013, Age and ageing


leukocyte telomere length (TL) is considered a marker of biological aging. Several studies have investigated the link between leukocyte TL and aging-associated functional attributes of the brain, but no prior study has investigated whether TL can be linked to brain atrophy and white matter hyperintensities (WMHs); two prominent structural manifestations of brain aging.


we investigated whether leukocyte TL was related to brain atrophy and WMHs in a sample of 102 non-demented individuals aged 64-75 years.


shorter TL was related to greater degree of subcortical atrophy (β = -0.217, P = 0.034), but not to cortical atrophy. Furthermore, TL was 371 bp shorter (P = 0.041) in participants exhibiting subcortical WMHs, and 552 bp shorter (P = 0.009) in older participants exhibiting periventricular WMHs.


this study provides the first evidence of leukocyte TL being associated with cerebral subcortical atrophy and WMHs, lending further support to the concept of TL as a marker of biological aging, and in particular that of the aging brain.

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