Saturday, March 2, 2013

Research Highlights: Preliminary Study Shows Increased Rates of Experimentally Induced Viral Infections Associated with Short Telomere Length

Preliminary Study Shows Increased Rates of Experimentally Induced Viral Infections Associated with Shorter Telomere Length in Healthy Adult Populations

By: Joseph St. Pierre

According to an article recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, shorter telomere length in healthy immune-response cells was found was found to be associated with higher rates of  upper respitory infection via experimentally introduced doses of the common cold virus, rhinovirus type 39 (RV39). Telomeres, structures of DNA and protein capping the ends of each chromosome in humans, shorten with each subsequent cell division, ultimately limiting cell growth and metabolism. Consistently found to be associated with the onset of age-related morbidity, telomere length has long been considered to be a large contributor to functional issues in aging populations. However, at the time of this article's release, no other research examining the effect of decreased telomere length in younger, healthy adult populations had been published.

The study enrolled 152 participants aged between 18 and 55 years. Blood was drawn for telomere length assessment.  Subsequently, all patients received doses of RV39 via nasal drips and were quarantined for six days during which nasal lavage was collected and evaluations for signs of illness were performed. Blood samples were collected 28 days following exposure to gauge antibody response to RV39.   Finally, the association between telomere length of various peripheral blood mononuclear cells (T-cell subsets CD4, CD8CD28+, and CD8CD28-) and the rate of infection and clinical illness was examined via statistical analysis. Overall, shorter telomere length was found to be associated with increased infection rate. However, telomere length was shown to have an association with the rate of clinical illness in only one of the various cell types studied (CD8CD28-).

It should be noted that CD8CD28- cells lack the CD28 protein, long shown to be associated with the regulation and maintenance of telomeres in T-cell populations, rendering the aforementioned point to be of particular interest. However, due to a small study population and the preliminary nature of the study, more research must be conducted to further examine the discussed phenomena.

JAMA. 2013;309(7):699-705

Joseph St. Pierre is the 2012-2013 Tuftscope Research Highlights Editor
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