Allergy Asthma Immunol Res.  2019 May;11(3):357-366. 10.4168/aair.2019.11.3.357.

Leukocyte Telomere Length Reflects Prenatal Stress Exposure, But Does Not Predict Atopic Dermatitis Development at 1 Year

  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, Asan Institute for Life Sciences, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, Childhood Asthma Atopy Center, Environmental Health Center, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Department of Pediatrics, CHA University Gangnam CHA Hospital, Seoul, Korea.
  • 5Department of Pediatrics, Yonsei University Severance Children's Hospital, Seoul, Korea.
  • 6Department of Pediatrics, Sungkyunkwan University Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.
  • 7Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 8Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 9Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 10Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gangnam CHA Medical Center, CHA University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 11Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


Prenatal maternal stress affects offspring's atopic dermatitis (AD) development, which is thought to be mediated by the oxidative stress. We aimed to evaluate the difference in leukocyte telomere length (LTL), a marker for exposure to oxidative stress, according to the prenatal stress exposure and the later AD development.
From a birth cohort (the COhort for Childhood Origin of Asthma and allergic diseases) that had displayed a good epidemiologic association between the exposure to prenatal stress and AD development in the offspring, we selected 68 pairs of samples from 4 subject groups based on the level of prenatal maternal stress and later AD development. The LTL was measured from both cord blood and 1-year peripheral blood, and their LTLs were compared between subject groups. Finally, the proportion of AD development was examined in the subject groups that are reclassified based on subjects' exposure to prenatal stress and there LTL.
Cord-blood LTL was shorter in prenatally stressed infants than in unstressed ones (P = 0.026), which difference was still significant when subjects became 1 year old (P = 0.008). LTL of cord blood, as well as one of the 1-year peripheral blood, was not different according to later AD development at 1 year (P = 0.915 and 0.174, respectively). Shorter LTL made no increase in the proportion of later AD development in either prenatally high-stressed or low-stressed groups (P = 1.000 and 0.473, respectively).
Cord-blood LTL may reflect subjects' exposure to maternal prenatal stress. However, the LTL shortening is not a risk factor of increasing AD development until the age of 1, and a longer investigation may be necessary for validation. Currently, the results doubt the role of LTL shortening as a marker for risk assessment tool for the prenatal stress associated with AD development in the offspring.


Atopic dermatitis; cohort studies; child; cord blood; telomere shortening; psychological stress

MeSH Terms

Cohort Studies
Dermatitis, Atopic*
Fetal Blood
Oxidative Stress
Risk Assessment
Risk Factors
Stress, Psychological
Telomere Shortening
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