Telomere length analysis from minimally-invasively collected samples: Methods development and meta-analysis of the validity of different sampling techniques: American Journal of Human Biology

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Journal Article

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American Journal of Human Biology




© 2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Objectives: Telomeres are the protective caps of chromosomes. They shorten with cell replication, age, and possibly environmental stimuli (eg, infection and stress). Short telomere length (TL) predicts subsequent worse health. Although venous whole blood (VWB) is most commonly used for TL measurement, other, more minimally invasive, sampling techniques are becoming increasingly common due to their field-friendliness, allowing for feasible measurement in low-resource contexts. We conducted statistical validation work for measuring TL in dried blood spots (DBS) and incorporated our results into a meta-analysis evaluating minimally invasive sampling techniques to measure TL. Methods: We isolated DNA extracts from DBS using a modified extraction protocol and tested how they endured different shipping conditions and long-term cryostorage. We then included our in-house DBS TL validation statistics (correlation values with VWB TL and age) in a series of meta-analyses of results from 24 other studies that published similar associations for values between TL measured in DBS, saliva, and buccal cells. Results: Our modified DBS extraction technique produced DNA yields that were roughly twice as large as previously recorded. Partially extracted DBS DNA was stable for 7 days at room temperature, and still provided reliable TL measurements, as determined by external validation statistics. In our meta-analysis, DBS TL had the highest external validity, followed by saliva, and then buccal cells—possibly reflecting similarities/differences in cellular composition vs VWB. Conclusions: DBS DNA is the best proxy for VWB from the three minimally-invasively specimen types evaluated and can be used to expand TL research to diverse settings and populations.

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