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Open AccessArticle

Telomeres and Longevity: A Cause or an Effect?

Department of Human Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel
Institute of Evolution and Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel
Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 5290002, Israel
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, D-10315 Berlin, Germany
Departments of Molecular Pharmacology, Medicine, and the Institute for Aging Research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA
Freie Universität Berlin, D-14195 Berlin, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(13), 3233;
Received: 2 May 2019 / Revised: 25 June 2019 / Accepted: 29 June 2019 / Published: 1 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Role of Telomeres and Telomerase in Cancer and Aging 2019)
PDF [1649 KB, uploaded 1 July 2019]


Telomere dynamics have been found to be better predictors of survival and mortality than chronological age. Telomeres, the caps that protect the end of linear chromosomes, are known to shorten with age, inducing cell senescence and aging. Furthermore, differences in age-related telomere attrition were established between short-lived and long-lived organisms. However, whether telomere length is a “biological thermometer” that reflects the biological state at a certain point in life or a biomarker that can influence biological conditions, delay senescence and promote longevity is still an ongoing debate. We cross-sectionally tested telomere length in different tissues of two long-lived (naked mole-rat and Spalax) and two short-lived (rat and mice) species to tease out this enigma. While blood telomere length of the naked mole-rat (NMR) did not shorten with age but rather showed a mild elongation, telomere length in three tissues tested in the Spalax declined with age, just like in short-lived rodents. These findings in the NMR, suggest an age buffering mechanism, while in Spalax tissues the shortening of the telomeres are in spite of its extreme longevity traits. Therefore, using long-lived species as models for understanding the role of telomeres in longevity is of great importance since they may encompass mechanisms that postpone aging. View Full-Text
Keywords: telomere length; naked mole-rats; blind mole-rats (Spalax); telomeres; long-lived; age; longevity telomere length; naked mole-rats; blind mole-rats (Spalax); telomeres; long-lived; age; longevity

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Adwan Shekhidem, H.; Sharvit, L.; Leman, E.; Manov, I.; Roichman, A.; Holtze, S.; M. Huffman, D.; Y. Cohen, H.; Bernd Hildebrandt, T.; Shams, I.; Atzmon, G. Telomeres and Longevity: A Cause or an Effect? Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20, 3233.

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