Researchers from Hanyang University and Inha University conducted a study to investigate whether telomere length (TL) is associated with early subjective depressive symptoms and cognitive complaints in healthy elderly subjects. The study, published in the journal Aging, enrolled 137 relatively healthy individuals between the ages of 60 and 79 years old in a prospective randomized controlled trial.
The researchers measured TL and blood biomarkers, including interleukin (IL)-6 levels, in all participants at baseline and after six months of follow-up. They found that a decrease of 0.06 kbps in TL was associated with a one point increase in the geriatric depression scale, while a decrease of 0.11-0.14 kbps in TL was associated with a one point increase in the cognitive complaint interview scores. Additionally, a decrease of 0.08-0.09 kbps in TL was associated with an increase in IL-6 levels.
The study authors suggest that IL-6, an inflammatory cytokine, may play an important role in the relationship between TL shortening and early subjective depressive mood and cognitive complaints. The results of this study will need to be verified through a larger-scale RCT in the future. However, the findings may help prevent and treat depression and cognitive impairment in the healthy elderly.
Previous research has also suggested that TL is associated with depression and cognitive impairment in the elderly. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the emergence of a prematurely aged phenotype in late-life depression, such as glucocorticoid cascade dysregulation, increased allostatic load, and telomere shortening. Early detection of depression and cognitive impairment is important to delay disease progression.
The study was a multicenter, outcome assessor-blinded, 24-week, randomized controlled trial (RCT). Linear regression analyses were performed to identify whether early subjective depressive symptoms, cognitive complaints, and several blood biomarkers are associated with TL. The results of this study add to the growing body of evidence linking TL with depression and cognitive impairment in the elderly.
The authors of the study believe that their findings will help prevent and treat depression and cognitive impairment in the healthy elderly. Further research will be needed to verify the results of this study through a larger-scale RCT in the future. The study highlights the importance of early detection of depression and cognitive impairment in the elderly to delay disease progression.
In conclusion, the study found that both early subjective depressive symptoms and cognitive complaints in relatively healthy elderly individuals were associated with a relatively shorter TL. The study also found that a shorter TL was associated with increased IL-6 levels. The findings of this study may have important implications for the prevention and treatment of depression and cognitive impairment in the healthy elderly.