Telomere shortening - a marker of cellular senescence


Telomeres are complexes composed of proteins and nucleotides of TTAGGG repeats at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes [1-3], see figure. Due to the mechanism of replication, telomeres shorten with every cell division, ticking as a cellular “molecular clock” [1].

Stressful conditions forcing organs or tissues to waste proliferative potential may lead to earlier ageing onset and earlier shortening of telomere length [1]. As well as unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, psychological stress, poor diet and physical inactivity [3-5], shorter telomere length has been associated with diseases including cardiovascular disease, dementia or autoimmune diseases (e.g. systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis) [1,3,6]. In most cases, a link between telomere shortening and a constant high level of oxidative stress was observed [1].


Information about the role of telomere in MS remains limited…


  • A study from Germany found shorter telomere length (TL) in patients with MS (n=138) compared with healthy controls (n=120) across all stages of the disease (0.74 vs. 0.94 TL, p < .001), but no association between telomere length and disability progression [7].


  • An association between shorter telomere length and greater disability and brain atrophy independent of chronological age and MS disease duration was reported from a US cohort study (n=516) [3].


Figure: Telomeres are the protective end-complexes at the termini of the eukaryotic cell chromosomes

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(Source picture: Bayer library, adapted)


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