Telomere length in small-for-gestational-age babies


Correspondence: Professor JC Konje, Fetal Growth and Development Research Group, Reproductive Science Section, Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, University of Leicester, Robert Kilpatrick Clinical Sciences Building, Leicester LE2 7LX, UK. Email


Objective  Short telomeres are associated with adult cardiovascular disease. Our aim was to determine whether small-for-gestational-age (SGA) newborns have shortened telomeres compared with appropriately grown controls.

Design  Prospective cohort study.

Setting  Large tertiary referral unit in Trent, UK.

Population  Seventy-two women who delivered at 35–42 weeks of gestation were recruited; 34 delivered SGA babies (less than or equal to the third birthweight centile) and 38 had appropriately grown babies (greater than the tenth centile).

Methods  Maternal and cord blood samples were collected at delivery. A Southern blot of DNA from these samples was hybridised with a 32P-labelled telomeric probe and telomere length was measured.

Main  outcome measures Mean maternal and newborn telomere length.

Results  Maternal and newborn telomere lengths were significantly correlated in both the SGA and the control groups (r2= 0.25, P < 0.0001). Telomere lengths were similar in both maternal (control 8.41 ± 0.9 kb versus SGA 8.29 ± 1.0 kb, P= 0.57) and newborn (control 10.36 ± 1.5 kb versus SGA 10.33 ± 1.3 kb, P= 0.93) cohorts in the two groups.

Conclusions  Intrauterine events associated with impaired fetal growth do not appear to be associated with increased telomere shortening.