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SAGE KE Bulletin Board

Paternal age is positively linked to telomere length of children

20 March 2005

Michael W Russell

Relatively little is known about how telomere length is established in humans despite convincing data that telomere length is heritable and uniform in various tissues of individuals during prenatal development and is variable between individuals. Intriguingly, sperm cells have been shown to be unique among mammalian cells in possessing increasing telomere lengths with age (Allsopp et al., 1992).

A recent study appearing in the current edition of Aging Cell (Unryn et al., 2005) examined parental age in relation to offspring telomere length and found that telomere length in children was strongly and positively associated with paternal age. Given that telomere inheritance occurs through sperm and egg cells, this data identifies a possible mechanism for vertical transmission of telomere length and provides additional insight into how telomere length may be established as telomere length is directly correlated with sperm age. With the potential links between age-associated diseases and telomere attrition, as well as recent reports linking loss of telomere length to mortality, the conclusions in this study are likely to have major social and medical implications, particularly for the elderly.

Allsopp, R.C., Vaziri, H., Patterson, C., Goldstein, S., Younglai, E.V., Futcher, A.B., Greider, C.W., and Harley, C.B. (1992) Telomere length predicts replicative capacity of human fibroblasts. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (89): 10141-10118.

Unryn B.M., Cook L.S., Riabowol K.T. (2005) Paternal age is positively linked to telomere length of children. Aging Cell 4(2): 97- 101.


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Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150