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Telomere Length Is Not Related to Established Cardiovascular Risk Factors but Does Correlate with Red and White Blood Cell Counts in a German Blood Donor Population.

Authors: Bruno B. Neuner, Anna A. Lenfers, Reinhard R. Kelsch, Kathrin K. Jäger, Nina N. Brüggmann, Pim P. van der Harst, Michael M. Walter
Published: 10/07/2015, PloS one


Telomere length (TL) is considered a marker of biological aging and has been associated with the presence of various coronary risk factors in patients. Much less is known about the relationships between TL and classic coronary risk factors in other populations. We measured TL in peripheral blood leukocytes of 343 middle-aged blood donors (mean age 40.2 ± 12.4 years; 201 men, 142 women) using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Median TL was 0.86 (range: 0.48-1.85) relative TL units. In linear regression analyses with natural log-transformed T to S ratio as the dependent variable, there was a significant association with age (per year: beta = -0.007, p<0.001) and sex (males vs. females: beta = 0.075, p = 0.007) with longer telomeres in men. After adjusting for these two variables, we observed no association of TL with classic coronary risk factors including cholesterol (p = 0.36), triglyceride (p = 0.09), HDL-cholesterol (p = 0.26), LDL-cholesterol (p = 0.36), smoking (p = 0.97), and personal (p = 0.46) or family history (p = 0.63) of cardiovascular disease. However, we did find a significant positive association with white (p = 0.011) and red blood cell count (p = 0.031), hemoglobin (p = 0.014) and hematocrit (p = 0.013); we also found a borderline positive association with thrombocytes (p = 0.074). Positive associations remained significant for hemoglobin (p = 0.017), hematocrit (p = 0.023), and leukocytes (p = 0.009) in a subgroup with no reported vascular disease; associations were of borderline significance for erythrocytes (p = 0.053) and thrombocytes (p = 0.088) in this subgroup. The data do not support the concept that classic coronary risk factors contribute to telomere attrition in a blood donor population. However, telomere attrition may be a marker for reduced proliferation reserve in hematopoietic progenitor cells.

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