Telomere length is associated with growth in children in rural Bangladesh

Audrie Lin, Andrew N. Mertens, Benjamin F. Arnold, Sophia Tan, Jue Lin, Christine P. Stewart, Alan E. Hubbard, Shahjahan Ali, Jade Benjamin-Chung, Abul K. Shoab, Md Ziaur Rahman, Syeda Luthfa Famida, Md Saheen Hossen, Palash Mutsuddi, Salma Akther, Mahbubur Rahman, Leanne Unicomb, Ruchira Tabassum Naved, Md Mahfuz Al Mamun, Kausar ParvinFirdaus S. Dhabhar, Patricia Kariger, Lia C.H. Fernald, Stephen P. Luby, John M. Colford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Previously, we demonstrated that a water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutritional intervention improved linear growth and was unexpectedly associated with shortened childhood telomere length (TL) (Lin et al., 2017). Here, we assessed the association between TL and growth. Methods: We measured relative TL in whole blood from 713 children. We reported differences between the 10th percentile and 90th percentile of TL or change in TL distribution using generalized additive models, adjusted for potential confounders. Results: In cross-sectional analyses, long TL was associated with a higher length-for-age Z score at age 1 year (0.23 SD adjusted difference in length-for-age Z score (95% CI 0.05, 0.42; FDR-corrected p-value = 0.01)). TL was not associated with other outcomes. Conclusions: Consistent with the metabolic telomere attrition hypothesis, our previous trial findings support an adaptive role for telomere attrition, whereby active TL regulation is employed as a strategy to address ‘emergency states’ with increased energy requirements such as rapid growth during the first year of life. Although short periods of active telomere attrition may be essential to promote growth, this study suggests that a longer overall initial TL setting in the first two years of life could signal increased resilience against future telomere erosion events and healthy growth trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere60389
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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