Those Long Telomeres Inherited from an Older Father Give You Longevity
Short telomeres a cause of ill health that occurs with aging long telomeres promote slower aging
chromosomes (red) on a microscope slide. Telomere sequences (yellow)
reside at the ends of each chromosome. More about telomeres from
University of Utah below main story.
June 13, 2012 - Senior citizens most of them, anyway - are fond of trying to find reasons they are going to live longer. Well, here is
a new one for you to contemplate. Researchers say that if your father conceived you late in life, you probably inherited some life-extending
benefits long telomeres.
Its all based on a biological assumption that a slow pace of aging requires the body to invest more resources in
repairing aging cells and tissues.
Researchers from Northwestern University say that our bodies might increase these investments to slow the pace of aging
if our father and grandfather waited until they were older before having children.
Short telomeres in cellular aging associated with risk for chronic diseases - see second report below on several UCSF
studies of stress damage on telomeres and repair by exercise
Feb. 27, 201
Aging Alone - Senior Journal Sept. 6, 2011 - Telomeres
are found at the end of each chromosome in the body and act as ...Telomeres
shrink every time they are copied, which occurs every time cells divide.
How You Age Determined by X Chromosome
Feb. 13, 2004 - Previous research including a 2003 Lancet paper (Lancet 2003; 361: 393-95) has shown that the relative length of the
ends of chromosomes (telomeres)
Their study, which was conducted in the Philippines, found that children of older fathers inherit longer telomeres, which
are DNA found at the ends of chromosomes. And, the discovered, that the association of paternal age with offspring telomere length is also
cumulative across multiple generations.
Shorter telomeres seem to be a cause of ill health that occurs with aging longer telomeres seem to promote slower
It appears that as men delay reproduction, they will pass on longer telomeres to offspring, which may facilitate
extension of life span and allow reproducing at older ages.
"If your father and grandfather were able to live and reproduce at a later age, this might predict that you yourself live
in an environment that is somewhat similar an environment with less accidental deaths or in which men are only able to find a partner at
later ages," said Dan T.A. Eisenberg, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Northwestern.
"In such an environment, investing more in a body capable of reaching these late ages could be an adaptive strategy from
an evolutionary perspective."
Christopher W. Kuzawa, co-author of the study, associate professor of anthropology at Northwestern and a faculty fellow
at the University's Institute for Policy Research, says these new findings are fascinating.
"If our recent ancestors waited until later in adulthood before they reproduced, perhaps for cultural reasons, it would
make sense for our bodies to prepare for something similar by investing the extra resources necessary to maintain healthy functioning at more
advanced ages," Kuzawa said.
Eisenberg said he hopes the study will further our understanding of the evolution of aging, why we get old and the ways
that we adapt to the environment.
"When we think of adaptation, we tend to think of it happening over hundreds of generations," Eisenberg said. "This study
illustrates a means by which much more rapid adaptive genetic changes might occur over just a few generations."
"The idea that information about the environment can be passed on biochemically from one generation to the next is
certainly not something new," said M. Geoffrey Hayes, co-author of the study, assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern's Feinberg
School of Medicine and assistant professor of anthropology at Northwestern. "But what is quite unique in the case of our telomere study is
that we're seeing an association across more than one generation."
The researchers said their study should not be taken as a recommendation that men reproduce at later ages as previous
research has shown that older fathers are more likely to pass along harmful mutations to their offspring at conception, which can lead to
increased rates of miscarriage and other health issues in offspring.
However, Kuzawa said, "These new findings suggest that there might also be underappreciated benefits to having an older
father or grandfather."
And while the findings are fascinating, Kuzawa said they will need to see if they are replicated in other populations.
"We will want to see if the longer telomeres that offspring of older fathers and grandfathers inherit at birth have fewer
health problems and ailments as they age," Kuzawa said. "Based upon our findings, we predict that this will be the case, but this is a
question to be addressed in future studies."
The report on this study, "Delayed Paternal Age of Reproduction in Humans Is Associated With Longer Telomeres Across Two
Generations of Descendants," was published June 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Shorten with Age, Predict Mortality from Heart
Disease, Various Infectious Diseases
News release from 2003 issued by The Lancet on research from the U of Utah
School of Medicine's Department of Human
Genetics, Huntsman Cancer Institute, and
Department of Family and Consumer Studies
Once a person is older than 60, their risk of death
doubles with every eight years of age. So a 68-year-old has twice the
chance of dying within a year compared with a 60-year-old. Cawthon's
study found that differences in telomere length accounted for only 4
percent of that difference.
And while intuition tells us older people
have a higher risk of death, only another 6 percent is due purely to
chronological age. When telomere length, chronological age and gender
are combined (women live longer than men), those factors account for 37
percent of the variation in the risk of dying over age 60. So what
causes the other 63 percent?
January 30, 2003 -- As if it's not bad enough
that people lose their hair, teeth, and eyesight
as they age, their chromosomes desert them, too.
As people get older, telomeres-the ends of
chromosomes-get shorter in all dividing cells in
the body, except the germline (cells from which
a new organism can develop).
This, according to
University of Utah medical researchers, holds
major health implications for people over age 60
because shortened telomeres in blood are
associated with increased risks of dying from
heart disease or infectious diseases.
In a study published in the February 1 issue of
the international medical journal, The Lancet,
researchers from the U of Utah School of Medicine's
Department of Human Genetics, Huntsman Cancer
Institute, and Department of Family and Consumer
Studies concluded that women and men with
shorter telomeres died sooner than people with
Women with shorter telomeres
died a median 4.8 years sooner, while men died a
median 4 years earlier than their counterparts.
"Telomere length was a significant predictor of
mortality in people ages 60 to 74," said Richard
M. Cawthon, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant
professor of human genetics and lead author of
In people age 75 and older, telomere length was
a moderate predictor of mortality.
The researchers studied 143 unrelated Utah
residents, ages 60 to 97, who donated blood from
1982-1986. At the time the study concluded, 101
of the people had died.
People whose telomere length was in the bottom
half of the study group had a heart disease
mortality rate more than three times higher than
subjects whose telomere length was in the top
half, the researchers found.
Those with telomere length in the bottom quarter
had an infectious disease mortality rate eight
times higher than people in the top
three-quarters for telomere length.
"Overall, individuals with shorter telomeres had
nearly twice the mortality rate of people with
longer telomeres," Cawthon said.
Telomere length is measured in base pairs of
DNA. The average length at birth is 8,000, but
as people age, the average drops to around 3,000
base pairs. Telomere lengths of those in the
study ranged from 1,930 to 4310 base pairs.
Although the study correlated telomere length
with increased heart disease and infectious
disease mortality, the researchers still aren't
sure exactly what that means. But the study
findings raised three possibilities:
-- Shorter telomeres increase disease mortality
risks and it's possible that a medical
intervention to lengthen telomeres could
-- Shorter telomeres do not increase the risk of
dying, but are markers of an underlying cause of
heart disease and infectious disease, perhaps a
fundamental process of aging.
-- People in the study with shorter telomeres
already were ill and telomere length was simply
a sign of disease.
"The most exciting possibility suggested by the
study is that if we could do some sort of
medical intervention and lengthen people's
telomeres, they would live longer and healthier
lives," Cawthon said.
It may be possible, for example, to introduce
the gene that produces the enzyme that makes
Even if short telomeres do not raise mortality
risks directly, but are merely a marker of an
underlying cause of age-related disease,
measurements of telomere length still may lead
researchers to the genes that regulate rates of
aging in people, according to Cawthon.
Telomere shortening is accelerated in
dyskeratosis congenita, a genetic disorder in
which patients suffer premature onset of
multiple age-related diseases. The median age of
death for people with the disorder is 16.
The Utah researchers had hypothesized that
telomere shortening in people without the
disorder also would contribute to mortality in
multiple age-related diseases.
Evan C. Hadley, M.D., associate director of
geriatrics and clinical gerontology at the
National Institute on Aging of the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), said the study bears
"This is a very interesting finding But, as
the authors note, the association between
telomere length and mortality doesn't prove that
telomeres cause increased mortality risk-they
may just be a marker, reflecting other processes
that are the real culprits," Hadley said. "We
need further study to clarify this."
The NIA provided funding for the study.
Along with Cawthon, the researchers included Ken
R. Smith, Ph.D., professor of family and
consumer studies; Elizabeth O'Brien, Ph.D., and
Anna Sivatchenko, M.D., of the Huntsman Cancer
Institute at the University of Utah; and Richard
A. Kerber, Ph.D., also of the Huntsman Cancer
Institute and associate professor of oncological
sciences at the University of Utah School of
Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?
Inside the center or nucleus of a cell, our genes
are located on twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA called
chromosomes. At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called
telomeres, which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to
divide and hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer.
Telomeres have been compared with the plastic tips
on shoelaces because they prevent chromosome ends from fraying and
sticking to each other, which would scramble an organism's genetic
information to cause cancer, other diseases or death.
Yet, each time a cell divides, the telomeres get
shorter. When they get too short, the cell no longer can divide and
becomes inactive or "senescent" or dies. This process is associated with
aging, cancer and a higher risk of death. So telomeres also have been
compared with a bomb fuse.
What role do telomeres play in cancer?
As a cell begins to become cancerous, it divides
more often, and its telomeres become very short. If its telomeres get
too short, the cell may die. It can escape this fate by becoming a
cancer cell and activating an enzyme called telomerase, which prevents
the telomeres from getting even shorter.
Studies have found shortened telomeres in many
cancers, including pancreatic, bone, prostate, bladder, lung, kidney,
and head and neck.
Measuring telomerase may be a new way to detect
What about telomeres and aging?
Geneticist Richard Cawthon and colleagues at the
University of Utah found shorter telomeres are associated with shorter
lives. Among people older than 60, those with shorter telomeres were
three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more
likely to die from infectious disease.
While telomere shortening has been linked to the
aging process, it is not yet known whether shorter telomeres are just a
sign of aging - like gray hair - or actually contribute to aging .
How big a role do telomeres play in aging?
Some long-lived species like humans have telomeres
that are much shorter than species like mice, which live only a few
years. Nobody yet knows why. But it's evidence that telomeres alone do
not dictate lifespan.
Cawthon's study found that when people are divided
into two groups based on telomere lengths, the half with longer
telomeres lives five years longer than those with shorter telomeres.
That suggests lifespan could be increased five years by increasing the
length of telomeres in people with shorter ones.