Diagnostic utility of telomere length measurement in a hospital setting

Jonathan K. Alder, Vidya Sagar Hanumanthu, Margaret A. Strong, Amy E. DeZern, Susan E. Stanley, Clifford M. Takemoto, Ludmilla Danilova, Carolyn D. Applegate, Stephen G. Bolton, David W. Mohr, Robert A. Brodsky, James F. Casella, Carol W. Greider, J. Brooks Jackson, Mary Armanios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Very short telomere length (TL) provokes cellular senescence in vitro, but the clinical utility of TL measurement in a hospital-based setting has not been determined. We tested the diagnostic and prognostic value of TL measurement by flow cytometry and fluorescence in situ hybridization (flowFISH) in individuals with mutations in telomerase and telomere maintenance genes, and examined prospectively whether TL altered treatment decisions for patients with bone marrow failure. TL had a definable normal range across populations with discrete lower and upper boundaries. TL above the 50th age-adjusted percentile had a 100% negative predictive value for clinically relevant mutations in telomere maintenance genes, but the lower threshold for diagnosis was age-dependent. The extent of deviation from the age-adjusted median correlated with the age at diagnosis of a telomere syndrome as well as the predominant complication. Mild short telomere defects manifested in adults as pulmonary fibrosis-emphysema, while severely short TL manifested in children as bone marrow failure and immunodeficiency. Among 38 newly diagnosed patients with bone marrow failure, TL shorter than the 1st age-adjusted percentile enriched for patients with germline mutations in inherited bone marrow failure genes, such as RUNX1, in addition to telomere maintenance genes. The TL result modified the hematopoietic stem cell donor choice and/or treatment regimen in one-fourth of the cases (9 of 38, 24%). TL testing by flowFISH has diagnostic and predictive value in definable clinical settings. In patients with bone marrow failure, it altered treatment decisions for a significant subset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Dec 6 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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