Telomeres and the natural lifespan limit in humans

Troels Steenstrup, Jeremy D. Kark, Simon Verhulst, Mikael Thinggaard, Jacob V.B. Hjelmborg, Christine Dalgård, Kirsten Ohm Kyvik, Lene Christiansen, Massimo Mangino, Timothy D. Spector, Inge Petersen, Masayuki Kimura, Athanase Benetos, Carlos Labat, Ronit Sinnreich, Shih Jen Hwang, Daniel Levy, Steven C. Hunt, Annette L. Fitzpatrick, Wei ChenGerald S. Berenson, Michelangela Barbieri, Giuseppe Paolisso, Shahinaz M. Gadalla, Sharon A. Savage, Kaare Christensen, Anatoliy I. Yashin, Konstantin G. Arbeev, Abraham Aviv

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


An ongoing debate in demography has focused on whether the human lifespan has a maximal natural limit. Taking a mechanistic perspective, and knowing that short telomeres are associated with diminished longevity, we examined whether telomere length dynamics during adult life could set a maximal natural lifespan limit. We define leukocyte telomere length of 5 kb as the 'telomeric brink', which denotes a high risk of imminent death. We show that a subset of adults may reach the telomeric brink within the current life expectancy and more so for a 100-year life expectancy. Thus secular trends in life expectancy should confront a biological limit due to crossing the telomeric brink.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1130-1142
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


  • Leukocytes
  • Life-expectancy
  • Longevity
  • Maximal lifespan
  • Sex


Dive into the research topics of 'Telomeres and the natural lifespan limit in humans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this