Shorter telomere length in older men but not older women

This 2014 UK human study was the first on telomere length I’ve curated, so here’s some background information:

“Telomeres are..structures..that cap the ends of..chromosomes, protecting them from end-to-end fusion and degradation during cell division.

Human telomeric DNA naturally shortens with age during..cell divisions and as a result of oxidative attack.

At critical shortness, telomeres exhibit impaired function, leading to genomic instability, apoptosis, and cell senescence, often with altered transcriptional programming and mitochondrial dysfunction.

In humans, mutations that directly compromise telomere maintenance cause premature mortality and onset of a spectrum of diseases overlapping with the age-related diseases common in the population.

Shorter telomere length in white blood cells is linked and, in some cases, anticipates aging-related morbidity and mortality from conditions with immune system involvement, such as infectious diseases, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and smoking.

A critical determinant of telomere length is the enzyme telomerase, which has the capacity to add..onto the..ends of telomeric DNA, extending telomere length and promoting genomic stability.

Acute mental stress appears to increase telomerase enzymatic activity at least transiently, and it has been suggested that high telomerase activity in conjunction with shorter telomere length may be indicative of a stressed system.”

The study put UK civil service men and women ages 54 through 76 through a series of stress tests. They found that men with longer telomeres had quicker recovery times than did men with shorter telomeres.

Men with shorter telomeres and low telomerase activity also had quicker recovery times than did men with shorter telomeres and high telomerase activity:

“In addition, we found that the (shorter telomeres and high telomerase activity men) had blunted reactivity to acute stress in diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol.”

No telomere-based differences occurred with women:

“The explanation for the sex difference in response profiles in our study is not clear. Hormonal processes are unlikely to be directly responsible, because women in this study were postmenopausal.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/111/12/4519.full “Shorter telomeres with high telomerase activity are associated with raised allostatic load and impoverished psychosocial resources”

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