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  • Writer's picturePre-Collegiate Global Health Review

Telomere Length: A Potential Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease

Seoyoung (Nina) Lee, Korean Minjok Leadership Academy, Hoeng-Seong, South Korea

With rapid advancement in the understanding of human metabolism, the average lifespan has been increasing globally. The United Nations statistics show that the population over the age of 65 has significantly increased over the last few decades, and this population is expected to double by 2050. As the elderly constitute a greater percentage of the global population, those with a weakened immune system and subject to geriatric diseases is also increasing. Geriatric syndromes develop when an individual experiences accumulated impairments in multiple systems that compromise their compensatory ability (Magnuson, 2019).

Medicine for the elderly is vital for the elderly population's health and steady social welfare. Numerous geriatric conditions and diseases exist, including dementia and bipolar disease as the most common geriatric neural conditions (Larrad-Jimenez et al., 2021). Additionally, neurodegenerative diseases appear after irreversible hallmarks of aging: telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, and loss of proteostasis. Telomere attrition, the gradual loss of the protective caps of chromosomes as a part of cellular senescence, contributes to Alzheimer's disease (Lopez-Otin et al., 2013). Alzheimer's disease is highly prevalent in the elderly and has been the subject of much research dealing with inhibitors of cellular senescence. However, despite the scholarly attention it has received, no cure has yet been identified (Hou et al., 2019). 

There have been multiple approaches to treating Alzheimer's via desirable therapies. Recently for example, Hee-Jae Kim's study from Sungshin Women’s University found a correlation between telomere length and Alzheimer's risk factors (Kim et al., 2020). Kim et al. measured the level of four risk factors of Alzheimer's to find the physiological relation with telomere length. The factors they looked for were BDNF, which stimulates the formation of neuritic plaques; IGF-1, which inhibits apoptosis; VEGF, which causes ALS; and beta-amyloid, a cause of memory loss and cognitive ability. Then telomere length of the same participants was measured using quantitative PCR, a method that amplifies the DNA and measures the amount of repetitive telomeric DNA sequences found within the pool (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2018). Test participants were elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. After the measurements were done, researchers used Pearson's correlation coefficient to digitize the association between variables. With the absolute value of Pearson's correlation coefficient higher than 0.30 indicating more than a moderate degree of association, some risk factors were proven to contain mild to high correlation with telomere length: IGF-1 and beta-amyloid had coefficients of 0.427 and 0.360. The results of this study suggest that potential treatment might exist if telomere attritions were appropriately managed.

Approaches to combat the most common diseases affecting the elderly undoubtedly have significant value in promoting global health, ultimately contributing to a healthy aging society. As we are already on the path of a rapidly aging society, and finding solutions for currently incurable geriatric syndromes such as Alzheimer's should become a greater priority as time progresses. Although major efforts are being made towards researching geriatric conditions, it is necessary to increase research funding to actualize cures and improve treatments (WHO, 2021). Given the financial support and manpower required, it is crucial to the continue support of research on aging and diseases such as Alzheimer's in order to protect the right to live a long and healthy life.



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