The DNA Dude has a background blog on telomeres and the genetic variation study, with illustration.
The most recent and exciting news in this story was just published. It deals with the observation that telomere lengths differ in people of the same age. Although there is certainly an environmental affect on telomere length, it’s also clear there are strong genetic components to their maintenance. So what are they? Are there specific gene variants that allow more efficient telomere protection than others? Are certain diseases associated with those genetic variants as a result of inadequate telomere protection?
[Source: DNA Dude]
Meanwhile Ourobouros reports on a new study of Ashkenazi Jewish centenarians who display an unusually long telomere length.
A study of Ashkenazi Jewish centenarians by Atzmon et al. has revealed that telomere length is correlated with longer lifespan and slower biological aging (reflected in measurements of several biomarkers of aging). Both lifespan and telomere length are, in turn, correlated with polymorphisms at the hTERT and hTERC loci, two genes that respectively encode the major protein and RNA component of telomerase.
Recently we learned that telomere length is a biomarker of chronological age – in other words, that younger people have longer telomeres in general. This correlation is imperfect, unsurprisingly, and probably for lots of reasons, including individual variations in lifestyle, outlook, stress levels, and other factors. This new study demonstrates that there some of the difference between individuals in the rate of telomere shortening over time is under genetic control.