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03-07-2011 | Diabetes | Article

Telomere length predicts diabetic complication risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: Telomere length appears to be strongly predictive of the presence and number of complications associated with Type 2 diabetes, report researchers who say telomere measurement could be a useful part of standard disease management.

Explaining the need for such research, Antonio Procopio (Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy) and associates note that "neither a single diabetes-related risk factor or marker, nor a cluster of them seem to explain the increased risk for diabetic complications as a whole."

Recently, however, it has been suggested that the shortening of telomeres caused by oxidative stress and inflammation may represent a marker of diabetes complication risk.

To test this idea, Procopio and colleagues measured telomere length in leukocytes collected from 501 Type 2 diabetes patients, and 400 generally healthy volunteers. Of the diabetes patients, 284 had at least one complication related to their diabetes.

Leukocytes were chosen for testing because they are particularly susceptible to telomere shortening, explain the authors. This is because leukocytes proliferate rapidly and readily produce highly oxidizing factors during the inflammatory response.

As reported in the journal Diabetic Medicine, telomeres were significantly shorter in patients with diabetes complications than in patients without complications or healthy volunteers. This relationship between telomere length and number of complications was linear, whereby decreasing length was associated with an increasing number of complications. Importantly, the correlation was also independent of age and gender, both of which affect telomere length.

"These results are in accordance with the growing body of literature evidencing that premature cell senescence is an important cause and/or consequence of Type 2 diabetes and its complications," summarize the investigators.

"Based on our findings, we can therefore hypothesize that shorter telomeres, leading to senescent phenotypes in multiple cell types, not only promote the onset of diabetes, but are also strictly linked to the presence of overt vascular damage," the clinicians conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Philip Ford