Telomere attrition has been associated with age related diseases although causality is unclear and controversial; low grade systemic inflammation (inflammaging) has also been implicated in age-related pathogenesis. Unpicking the relationship between ageing, telomere length (TL) and inflammaging is hence essential to the understanding of ageing and management of age-related diseases. This longitudinal study explores whether telomere attrition is a cause or consequence of ageing and whether inflammaging explains some of the associations between TL and one marker of ageing, grip strength.
We studied 253 Hertfordshire Ageing Study participants at baseline and 10 year follow up (mean age at baseline 67.1years). Participants completed a health questionnaire and had blood samples collected for immune-endocrine and telomere analysis at both time points. Physical ageing was characterised at follow-up using grip strength (GS).
Faster telomere attrition was associated with lower GS at follow-up (β=0.98, p=0.035). This association was completely attenuated when adjusted for inflammaging burden (p=0.86) over the same period. Similarly, greater inflammaging burden was associated with lower GS at follow-up (e.g. interleukin1β (IL-1β): β=−2.18, p=0.001), however, these associations were maintained when adjusted for telomere attrition (IL-1β, p=0.006).
We present evidence that inflammaging may be driving telomere attrition and in-part explains the associations which have previously been reported between TL and grip strength. Thus biomarkers of physical ageing, such as inflammaging, may require greater exploration. Further work is now indicated.