Telomere length is reduced in 9- to 16-year-old girls exposed to gestational diabetes in utero

Line Hjort, Regan Vryer, Louise G Grunnet, David Burgner, Sjurdur F Olsen, Richard Saffery, Allan Vaag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Shortened telomere length is a marker of cell damage and is associated with oxidative stress, chronic inflammation and metabolic disease. We hypothesised that the offspring of women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) with increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases might exhibit shorter telomere length.METHODS: We investigated telomere length in 439 GDM and 469 control group offspring, aged between 9 and 16 years, recruited from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Relative telomere length was measured in peripheral blood DNA (n = 908) using a quantitative PCR approach. Multivariate regression analysis was used to investigate the association between mothers' GDM status and telomere length in the offspring.RESULTS: Female offspring had longer telomeres than males. Offspring of mothers with GDM had significantly shorter telomere length than control offspring, but this difference was observed only in girls. There was a negative association between telomere length and GDM exposure among the female offspring (14% shorter telomeres, p = 0.003) following adjustment for the age of the offspring. Telomere length in female offspring was negatively associated with fasting insulin levels and HOMA-IR (p = 0.03). Maternal age, smoking, gestational age, birthweight and the offspring's anthropometric characteristics were not associated with telomere length (p ≥ 0.1).CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: The 9- to 16-year-old girls of mothers with GDM had shorter telomeres than those from the control population. Further studies are needed to understand the extent to which shortened telomere length predicts and/or contributes to the increased risk of disease later in life among the offspring of women with GDM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-880
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2018


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Birth Weight
  • Blood Glucose/metabolism
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark
  • Diabetes, Gestational/physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Insulin/blood
  • K562 Cells
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Sex Factors
  • Telomere Shortening


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