Lookup NU author(s): Professor Melissa Bateson
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).
Progress in improving animal welfare is currently limited by the lack of objective methods for assessing lifetime experience. I propose that telomere attrition, a cellular biomarker of biological age, provides a molecular measure of cumulative experience that could be used to assess the welfare impact of husbandry regimes and/or experimental procedures on non-human animals. I review evidence from humans that telomere attrition, is accelerated by negative experiences in a cumulative and dose-dependent manner, but that this attrition can be mitigated or even reversed by positive life-style interventions. Evidence from non-human animals suggests that despite some specific differences in telomere biology, stress-induced telomere attrition is a robust phenomenon, occurring in a range of species including mice and chickens. I conclude that telomere attrition apparently integrates positive and negative experience in an accessible common currency that translates readily to novel species – the Holy Grail of a cumulative welfare indicator.
Author(s): Bateson M
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Print publication date: 01/02/2016
Online publication date: 08/12/2015
Acceptance date: 26/11/2015
Date deposited: 26/11/2015
ISSN (print): 0265-9247
ISSN (electronic): 1521-1878
PubMed id: 26645576
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