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Analysis of the telomere length of subpopulations of primary human hematopoietic cells Van Ziffle, Jessica


Telomeres are structures at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes; they protect the ends from degradation and end-to-end fusions. Mammalian telomeres consist of a tandem array of G-rich repeats, with a length of two to 12 kb in human somatic cells. Somatic cell telomere length shortens with each cell division, leading to senescence or apoptosis. Critically short telomeres can lead to genomic instability, thus in cells that divide continually, such as germ cells, telomere length is maintained by telomerase. In a rare autosomal dominant form of dyskeratosis congenita, patients carry a mutation in the RNA template of telomerase, resulting in half maximal telomerase activity. Patients with this genotype die of aplastic anemia, indicating that maintenance of telomere length is likely critical, and may be particularly important in hematopoietic stem cells. Telomere length can be measured by a quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridisation and flow cytometry based method (Flow- FISH). In the present study, this technique was used to measure telomere length in lymphocytes and in "candidate" stem cell populations isolated from eight cadaveric marrow samples from normal adults (aged 14 to 48 years). Telomere length analysis of B and T cells - two populations that undergo activation-induced telomerase up-regulation - revealed that CD20⁺ B cells in the bone marrow had longer telomeres than CD3⁺ T cells (p

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