Telomere erosion may lead to shorter life expectancy in men

This new study published in the journal “Cytogenetic and Genome Research” shows significantly shorter telomeres and higher erosion rates in men than in women, which likely causes a shorter life expectancy of male cells and tissues.


Human telomeres form the terminal structures of human chromosomes and play a pivotal role in the maintenance of genomic integrity and function. During aging, telomeres gradually shorten, eventually leading to cellular senescence. Therefore, in humans, short telomeres are considered to be a sign of advanced age.

In this study, the authors investigated human telomere length differences on single chromosome arms of 205 individuals in different age groups and sexes by T/C-FISH (telomere/centromere-fluorescence in situ hybridization), which allows precise measurement of individual telomeres.

In all chromosome arms there was a linear correlation between telomere length and donor age. Generally, the men had shorter telomeres and higher attrition rates than the women. However, every chromosome arm had its individual age-specific telomere length and erosion pattern, resulting in an unexpected heterogeneity in chromosome- specific regression lines. This differential erosion pattern does not seem to be accidental, though. The authors found a correlation between the average telomere length of single chromosome arms in newborns and their annual attrition rate, pointing towards a convergence of individual telomere lengths with age.

Apart from sex-specific discrepancies, the telomere lengths of specific chromosome arms were strikingly similar in men and women. This implies a mechanism that chromosome arms specifically regulate the telomere length independent of gender, thus leading to interchromosomal telomere variations.

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