© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Previous studies have suggested that Alzheimer's disease (AD) causes an accelerated shortening of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes consisting of highly conserved TTAGGG repeats that, because of unidirectional 5'-3' DNA synthesis, lose end point material with each cell division. Our own previous work suggested that telomere length of T-lymphocytes might be a remarkably accurate biomarker for "mild cognitive impairment" in adults with Down syndrome (MCI-DS), a population at dramatically high risk for AD. To verify that the progression of cognitive and functional losses due to AD produced this observed telomere shortening, we have now examined sequential changes in telomere length in five individuals with Down syndrome (3F, 2M) as they transitioned from preclinical AD to MCI-DS (N = 4) or dementia (N = 1). As in our previous studies, we used PNA (peptide nucleic acid) probes for telomeres and the chromosome 2 centromere (as an "internal standard" expected to be unaffected by aging or dementia status), with samples from the same individuals now collected prior to and following development of MCI-DS or dementia. Consistent shortening of telomere length was observed over time. Further comparisons with our previous cross-sectional findings indicated that telomere lengths prior to clinical decline were similar to those of other adults with Down syndrome (DS) who have not experienced clinical decline while telomere lengths following transition to MCI-DS or dementia in the current study were comparable to those of other adults with DS who have developed MCI-DS or dementia. Taken together, findings indicate that telomere length has significant promise as a biomarker of clinical progression of AD for adults with DS, and further longitudinal studies of a larger sample of individuals with DS are clearly warranted to validate these findings and determine if and how factors affecting AD risk also influence these measures of telomere length. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.