Leukocytes of exceptionally old persons display ultra-short telomeres

M. Kimura, M. Barbieri, J.P. Gardner, J. Skurnick, X. Cao, N. van Riel, M.R. Rizzo, G. Paoliso, A. Aviv

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


With a view to understanding the association between leukocyte telomere length and the human lifespan, we performed genome-wide telomere length analyses by the terminal restriction fragment length (TRFL) and single molecule telomere length analysis (STELA) of the X and Y chromosomes in leukocytes of exceptionally old (aged 90-104 yr) and younger (aged 23-74 yr) individuals. We found that the mean TRFL of 82 exceptionally old individuals was within a range projected by age-dependent TRFL attrition of 99 younger individuals. However, compared with the younger individuals, exceptionally old persons exhibited peaking of the TRFL distribution with overrepresentation of ultra-short telomeres. These findings were confirmed by the STELA. Women had longer mean TRFL than men (6.10 vs. 5.86 kb), and exceptionally old women exhibited fewer ultra-short telomeres than exceptionally old men. Our results have implications for gerontological studies of the limitation of lifespan in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R2210-R2217
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology : Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007


  • Aging
  • Centenarians
  • Lifespan
  • Mortality
  • Replication
  • Senescence


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