Shorter telomere lengths in patients with severe COVID-19 disease
The incidence of severe manifestations of COVID-19 increases with age with older patients showing the highest mortality, suggesting that molecular pathways underlying aging contribute to the severity of COVID-19. One mechanism of aging is the progressive shortening of telomeres, which are protective structures at chromosome ends. Critically short telomeres impair the regenerative capacity of tissues and trigger loss of tissue homeostasis and disease. The SARS-CoV-2 virus infects many different cell types, forcing cell turn-over and regeneration to maintain tissue homeostasis. We hypothesize that presence of short telomeres in older patients limits the tissue response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. We measure telomere length in peripheral blood lymphocytes COVID-19 patients with ages between 29 and 85 years-old. We find that shorter telomeres are associated to increased severity of the disease. Individuals within the lower percentiles of telomere length and higher percentiles of short telomeres have higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 pathologies.