Telomeres are non-coding DNA-sequences at the end of chromosomes and their main function is to protect genome from damage. Telomeres shorten with every cell division, but external factors can accelerate the shortening through oxidative stress. Short telomeres are shown to increase the risk of cancer and other age-related diseases. Furthermore, inter-individual variation in telomere length explains inter-individual differences in, i.a., lifespan, susceptibility to disease and ability to handle stress.
In my thesis, I aim to fill in this gap and to provide a solid basis for future studies using telomere length as a proxy for individual state. My research will also provide new information about how individual telomere lengths are determined in early life as well as how different life-history events affect telomere dynamics in later life.