Interpreting Your Results, FAQ

What are telomeres and why are they important?

Telomeres are the protective DNA structures at the ends of chromosomes. Over time these protective structures shorten and degrade. Many research publications over the recent past have shown that telomere length is associated with general health, and is a risk factor for mortality and many diseases. However, the technologies used to make many of these associations have obvious limitations and contradictory results have been reported using these same technologies. Importantly, average telomere length does not provide any information on short telomeres, which might be more important than average length in predicting risk.

What is special about short telomeres and what is FroST3™?

Very short telomeres might pose a risk of negative changes in cells. An individual cell can die or become dysfunctional if only one of its 92 telomeres becomes extremely short. FroST stands for “Fraction of Short Telomeres”, and FroST3 is an evaluation of the fraction of short telomeres below 3 kilobases in length. The trend in change of the overall telomere distribution, including the shortest telomeres, is probably a more informative indicator than the proportion or fraction of short telomeres measured with a single test at a given time.

What’s the difference between the Basic and Premium tests?

TeloMe’s Basic Telomere Test includes an analysis of a person’s average telomere length, a comparison of that average to a “group average” (which is calculated using other people of the same or similar chronological ages), as well as a FroST3 range, with a corresponding comparison to the “group” statistics. The FroST3 range represents an approximation (range) of the amount of a person’s short telomeres (below 3 Kb in length). The Premium Telomere Test report also provides average length but also provides an actual percentage for FroST3 (and a percentile ranking relative to chronological peer group). This value is much more precise than the FroST3 range given in the Basic Test, and allows more informed tracking over time.

How is my average telomere length determined?

The TeloMe Basic and Premium Telomere Tests report the average length of all your telomeres. Both long and short telomeres are included in this average. The average reported in your test also excludes subtelomeric DNA that other methods cannot or do not exclude. Taken together, the average and FroST3 scores provide comprehensive coverage of critical portions of your telomere length distribution.

What does it mean if my average telomere length is different from others my age?

Many publications have shown that relative risk of disease and mortality are increased in those whose average telomere length is substantially shorter than others their age, and the reverse is true of longer telomeres. These published reports typically show diminution of average telomere length of about 40 to 70 DNA bases per year. Nevertheless, these technologies typically measure only average length and do not measure the proportion of short telomeres, which might be a more important determinant than overall average length. Also bear in mind that telomere lengths and risk assessments might be substantially altered by lifestyle and telomerase activation strategies, as described below in the FAQ regarding biological age.

Why doesn't my report give risk estimates for diseases or other health complications associated with my telomeres?

Many publications have shown an association between shorter telomeres and health risks, so there likely is some relationship between the two. However, enough contrary results have been reported that it is not clear what this relationship is. Furthermore, the technologies used in the vast majority of these publications do not measure short telomeres, which might be the most important determinants of these associations. Even the highly reproducible "gold standard" technology (called TRF) does not measure short telomeres. Therefore, very little is actually known about the specifics of the relationship between telomere lengths and health risks. TeloMe has developed new technologies for measuring the lengths of all telomeres, including the shortest telomeres. Use of these technologies on large numbers of people over many years will help to discover the true associations between telomeres and health.

Why doesn’t my report include an assessment of “biological age”?

Neither our Basic nor Premium reports include a calculation of so-called “biological age” because we do not believe enough is known about the relationship between telomere length and health in enough people over long enough spans of time. We have separated the components of what would otherwise factor into a calculation of a person’s “biological age” (such as FroST3 score and average telomere length), and have included those specific components in our Premium test. Our Basic test includes a comparison of a person’s FroST3 range (as opposed to a specific value or “score”, which is included only in our Premium analysis), and the FroST3 averages for others with the same or similar chronological ages. Due to the variability from person to person (accounting for unique genetics, lifestyles, and the possibility of telomerase-activating therapies) only an evaluation of telomere length and telomere length distribution over time will allow reasonable estimates of one’s “biological age.”

How often should I re-test?
Telomere tracking becomes more meaningful with more data over time. Lifestyle changes or therapies that activate the telomerase enzyme have been reported to alter the overall length distribution and proportion of shorter telomeres by preferentially elongating a person’s very short telomeres. A minimum of annual testing will help you track these changes.