March 7, 2012
A telomere is a repeating sequence of nucleotides that protects the end of a chromosome. Telomeres shorten with aging. HIV-induced inflammation and the use of nucleoside analog drugs may accelerate telomere shortening.
A team from the University of British Columbia compared telomere length in leukocytes between 220 HIV-infected people (80% of them women, mean age 39) and 166 HIV-uninfected controls (71% of them women, mean age 39).
As expected, older age was predictive of shorter telomere length. HIV had a moderate negative effect on telomere length, but the strongest association was found with cigarette smoking, a source of oxidative stress that can accelerate cellular aging. Those who were both HIV infected and smoked had the worst telomere length, a sign of accelerated cellular aging.
For more information, read CROI poster 307, "HIV Infection Is Marginally Associated with Shorter Leukocyte Telomere Length," presented by DeAnna Zanet.