• Open Access

Telomere length in white blood cells is not associated with morbidity or mortality in the oldest old: a population-based study


Prof. Thomas von Zglinicki, Henry Wellcome Laboratory for Biogerontology, University of Newcastle, Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE 46BE, UK. Tel.: +44 191 256 3310; fax: +44 191 256 3445; e-mail: t.vonzglinicki@ncl.ac.uk


Cross-sectional studies have repeatedly suggested peripheral blood monocyte telomere length as a biomarker of aging. To test this suggestion in a large population-based follow-up study of the oldest old, we measured telomere length at baseline in 598 participants of the Leiden 85-plus Study (mean age at baseline 89.8 years). We also obtained second telomere measurements from 81 participants after an average time span of between 3.9 and 12.9 years. Telomere length at baseline was not predictive for mortality (P > 0.40 for all-cause, cardiovascular causes, cancer or infectious diseases, Cox regression for gender-adjusted tertiles of telomere length) or for the incidence of dementia (P = 0.78). Longitudinally, telomere length was highly unstable in a large fraction of participants. We conclude that blood monocyte telomere length is not a predictive indicator for age-related morbidity and mortality at ages over 85 years, possibly because of a high degree of telomere length instability in this group.