Open Access Research article

Circulating leukocyte telomere length is highly heritable among families of Arab descent

Omar S Al-Attas123*, Nasser M Al-Daghri123, Majed S Alokail123, Khalid M Alkharfy134, Assim A Alfadda5, Philip McTernan6, Greg C Gibson7, Shaun B Sabico13 and George P Chrousos18

Author Affiliations

1 Biomarkers Research Program, Biochemistry Department, College of Science, King Saud University, PO Box 2455, Riyadh, 11451, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

2 Center of Excellence in Biotechnology Research, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

3 Prince Mutaib Chair for Biomarkers of Osteoporosis, Biochemistry Department, King Saud University, PO Box 2455, Riyadh, 11451, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

4 Clinical Pharmacy Department, College of Pharmacy, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

5 Obesity Research Center, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

6 Division of Metabolic & Vascular Health, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, CSRL, UHCW, Coventry, CV2 2DX, UK

7 Center for Integrative Genomics, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA

8 Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Diabetes, University of Athens Medical School, Children's Hospital Aghia Sophia, Athens, Greece

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BMC Medical Genetics 2012, 13:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-38

Published: 18 May 2012



Telomere length, an indicator of ageing and longevity, has been correlated with several biomarkers of cardiometabolic disease in both Arab children and adults. It is not known, however, whether or not telomere length is a highly conserved inheritable trait in this homogeneous cohort, where age-related diseases are highly prevalent. As such, the aim of this study was to address the inheritability of telomere length in Saudi families and the impact of cardiometabolic disease biomarkers on telomere length.


A total of 119 randomly selected Saudi families (123 adults and 131 children) were included in this cross-sectional study. Anthropometrics were obtained and fasting blood samples were taken for routine analyses of fasting glucose and lipid profile. Leukocyte telomere length was determined using quantitative real time PCR.


Telomere length was highly heritable as assessed by a parent-offspring regression [h2 = 0.64 (p = 0.0006)]. Telomere length was modestly associated with BMI (R2 0.07; p-value 0.0087), total cholesterol (R2 0.08; p-value 0.0033), and LDL-cholesterol (R2 0.15; p-value 3 x 10-5) after adjustments for gender, age and age within generation.


The high heritability of telomere length in Arab families, and the associations of telomere length with various cardiometabolic parameters suggest heritable genetic fetal and/or epigenetic influences on the early predisposition of Arab children to age-related diseases and accelerated ageing.

Telomere length; Heritability; Arabs; Ageing