Telomere length determinants in childhood
Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Telomere length (TL) is a dynamic marker that reflects genetic predispositions together with the environmental conditions of an individual. It is closely related to longevity and a number of pathological conditions. Even though the extent of telomere research in children is limited compared to that of adults, there have been a substantial number of studies providing first insights into child telomere biology and determinants. Recent discoveries revealed evidence that TL is, to a great extent,
... o a great extent, determined already in childhood and that environmental conditions in adulthood have less impact than first believed. Studies have demonstrated that large inter-individual differences in TL are present among newborns and are determined by diverse factors that influence intrauterine development. The first years of child growth are associated with high cellular turnover, which results in fast shortening of telomeres. The rate of telomere loss becomes stable in early adulthood. In this review article we summarise the existing knowledge on telomere dynamics during the first years of childhood, highlighting the conditions that affect newborn TL. We also warn about the knowledge gaps that should be filled to fully understand the regulation of telomeres, in order to implement them as biomarkers for use in diagnostics or treatment.