Early-Life Experiences and Telomere Length in Adult Rhesus Monkeys: An Exploratory Study.
OBJECTIVE: Child-rearing environments have been associated with morbidity in adult rhesus monkeys. We examine whether such links are also seen with leukocyte telomere length.
METHODS: To determine telomere length in leukocytes, blood was collected from 11 adult female monkeys aged 7 to 10 years who had been exposed to different rearing environments between birth and 7 months. Four had been reared with their mothers in typical social groups composed of other female monkeys, their offspring, and 1 to 2 adult male monkeys. The other 7 had been reared in either small groups of peers or individual cages with extensive peer interaction daily. After 7 months, all shared a common environment.
RESULTS: Telomere lengths were longer for those adults who had been reared with their mothers in social groups (median = 16.0 kb, interquartile range = 16.5-15.4) than for those who were reared without their mothers (median = 14.0 kb, interquartile range = 14.3-12.7; 2.2 kb/telomere difference, p < .027).
CONCLUSIONS: This observation adds to emerging knowledge about early adverse child-rearing conditions and their potential for influencing later morbidity. Because newborns were randomly assigned to the mother or other rearing conditions, the findings are not confounded by other conditions that co-occur with adverse child-rearing environments in humans (e.g., prenatal stress, nutrition and health as well as postnatal nutrition and negative life experiences over and above rearing conditions).