Date of Award

Summer 7-11-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Nutrition

First Advisor

Anita Nucci

Second Advisor

Barbara Hopkins

Third Advisor

Laura Salazar

Abstract

ABSTRACT

THE EFFECTS OF HIV DISEASE AND LIFESTYLE FACTORS ON CELLULAR AGING IN TRANSGENDER WOMEN by Scott Stephen Sohn

Background: Telomeres are short tandem repeats of nucleotides at the ends of chromosomes. These specialized structures serve as caps on the end of the chromosomes, which protect DNA integrity. Telomeres get shorter each time a cell replicates, but the DNA remains intact as long as the telomere caps are a sufficient length. In time, telomeres become too short to protect DNA, which leads to cellular death. Previous research has shown that disease and negative lifestyle factors play a role in accelerated telomere attrition throughout the cellular life cycle. Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine if HIV infection and lifestyle factors in a transgender population living in Atlanta Georgia are associated with telomere length reduction.

Participants/setting: This study is a secondary analysis of data provided by a Georgia State University study entitled “Telomere Length, Environmental Stressors and Health Related Outcomes among Transgender Women”. The study included 92 transgender women from Atlanta, Georgia with 49 reporting HIV infection. Two sources of data were collected, survey responses collected during face to face interviews and a saliva sample for DNA analysis.

Statistical analysis: Frequency statistics were used to describe the sample population. A Mann Whitney U was used to evaluate telomere length using the T/S ratio by HIV status, by physical activity level (healthy active or low active) and by fruit and vegetable intake category (Don’t eat, 1-2 servings/day, 3-4 servings/day vs. >5 servings/day) in the total

Population. Multiple regression analysis was used to examine the association between independent variables (activity level, body mass index, fruit and vegetable intake, hormone use, race, HIV status and age) and telomere length.

Results: The majority of the population was Black (84%) with a median age of 33 years (range, 18 to 65 years). No significant association was observed between HIV infection and T/S ratio. The vast majority of the population reported low activity level and only 9% reported consuming >5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. No significant association was found between fruit and vegetable intake or physical activity level and T/S ratio in this population.

Conclusion: HIV infection, Fruit and vegetable intake, and physical activity were not found to impact telomere length in an urban population of transgender women. Future research is needed to further understand the mechanisms that impact telomere length throughout the cellular life cycle within the transgender population.

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