A study of Ashkenazi Jewish centenarians by Atzmon et al. has revealed that telomere length is correlated with longer lifespan and slower biological aging (reflected in measurements of several biomarkers of aging). Both lifespan and telomere length are, in turn, correlated with polymorphisms at the hTERT and hTERC loci, two genes that respectively encode the major protein and RNA component of telomerase.
Recently we learned that telomere length is a biomarker of chronological age – in other words, that younger people have longer telomeres in general. This correlation is imperfect, unsurprisingly, and probably for lots of reasons, including individual variations in lifestyle, outlook, stress levels, and other factors. This new study demonstrates that there some of the difference between individuals in the rate of telomere shortening over time is under genetic control.
Atzmon, G., Cho, M., Cawthon, R., Budagov, T., Katz, M., Yang, X., Siegel, G., Bergman, A., Huffman, D., Schechter, C., Wright, W., Shay, J., Barzilai, N., Govindaraju, D., & Suh, Y. (2009). Evolution in Health and Medicine Sackler Colloquium: Genetic variation in human telomerase is associated with telomere length in Ashkenazi centenarians Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107 (suppl_1), 1710-1717 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906191106
Related articles elsewhere:
- TERC, telomerase, and rate of aging (The Longevity Meme)
- Common variants near TERC are associated with mean telomere length (Nature Genetics)