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Adriana Koller, Caroline Brandl, Claudia Lamina, Martina E. Zimmermann, Monika Summerer, Klaus J. Stark, Reinhard Würzner, Iris M. Heid, Florian Kronenberg; Relative Telomere Length Is Associated With Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2022;63(5):30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.63.5.30.
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Relative telomere length (RTL) is a biomarker for physiological aging. Premature shortening of telomeres is associated with oxidative stress, which is one possible pathway that might contribute to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). We therefore aimed to investigate the association between RTL and AMD in a well-characterized group of elderly individuals.
We measured RTL in participants of the AugUR study using a multiplex quantitative PCR-based assay determining the ratio between the telomere product and a single-copy gene product (T/S ratio). AMD was assessed by manual grading of color fundus images using the Three Continent AMD Consortium Severity Scale.
Among the 2262 individuals 70 to 95 years old (627 with AMD and 1635 without AMD), RTL was significantly shorter in individuals with AMD compared to AMD-free participants. In age- and sex-adjusted logistic regression analyses, we observed an 8% higher odds for AMD per 0.1 unit shorter RTL (odds ratio [OR] = 1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02–1.14; P = 0.005). The estimates remained stable when adjusted for smoking, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Interestingly, this association was only present in women (OR = 1.14; 95% CI, 1.06–1.23; P < 0.001), but not in men (OR = 1.01; 95% CI, 0.93–1.10; P = 0.76). A significant sex-by-RTL interaction on AMD was detected (P = 0.043).
Our results show an association of RTL with AMD that was restricted to women. This is in line with altered reactive oxygen species levels and higher telomerase activity in women and provides an indication for a sex-differential pathway for oxidative stress and AMD.
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