Markers of Aging at Mid-life and Memory at Older Ages
Mid-life Telomere Length and Cognitive Decline in Later Life
Previous studies have provided suggestive evidence for an association between telomere length and cognitive function. This study aims determine whether telomere length might predict status of cognitive decline 10 years later by analyzing data from the Nurses' Health Study.
Alzheimer disease develops over many years. Thus, preventing Alzheimer disease may require interventions beginning at younger ages. However, to provide interventions only to those who most need them, we will have to find ways to identify at younger ages, those who would be most likely to get Alzheimer disease at older ages. We hypothesize that a novel marker of aging and bodily stress may also indicate the likelihood of developing memory problems in older persons. Much research would be needed before this marker could be used in clinical practice, and virtually no research has been done to date. Thus, our proposal to generate early data on a new marker that might predict memory problems in older people, would be critical to interest in supporting future widespread research on this marker. Overall, the success of our proposed pilot study could significantly change the field of research on Alzheimer disease prevention by indicating ways of predicting dementia risk at middle-age.
Previous studies have provided suggestive evidence for an association between telomere length and cognitive function. A telomere is a stretch of DNA that “caps” the end of a gene to make it more stable. Therefore, the longer the telomere, the more stable the gene, the better the cognitive function. This study aims to determine whether telomere length might predict the status of cognitive decline 10 years later by analyzing data from the Nurses' Health Study.
We have completed measurement of telomere length in a sample of women from the Nurses' Health Study. The telomeres were measured in blood samples collected when the women were in their early 60s. We have used these samples to assess whether telomere length at younger ages may act as a marker of future risk of cognitive decline. Such a marker of future risk of cognitive decline could be highly valuable, since it is likely that possible treatments for cognitive decline and dementia will require that the treatments be applied well before the disease has progressed to late stages.
Our analyses are virtually complete. Unfortunately, we have not found that telomere length is a valuable predictor of later cognitive decline. In our final analyses, we are exploring whether telomere length might be important in some subgroups of women, for example the youngest women.
Devore EE, Prescott J, De Vivo I, Grodstein F. Relative telomere length and cognitive decline in the Nurses' Health Study. Neurosci Lett 2011;492(1):15-8.
First published on: June 10, 2008
Last modified on: August 30, 2011