Background Accelerated cellular ageing, shown as lower telomerase activity, might be responsible for the well documented adverse health outcomes of intimate partner violence such as increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and depression. Mind-body interventions such as qigong are thought to be effective in alleviating accelerated cellular ageing but evidence of effectiveness is scarce. This study aimed to test the effect of a qigong intervention on telomerase activity of Chinese women who have experienced intimate partner violence. Methods We did this assessor-blind, waitlist, randomised controlled trial in the HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre, a community centre located in one of the 18 districts in Hong Kong. Chinese women meeting the inclusion criteria (aged 18-55 years and abused by an intimate partner) were randomly assigned (1:1) by computer-generated blocked randomisation to either the intervention group or the control group. The intervention group received a 5.5-month qigong intervention provided by a qigong master assisted by trained project workers. The waitlist control group received the same training but after the intervention group had completed the intervention. The primary outcome was change in telomerase activity measured by telomerase level in peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained at baseline and on completion of the intervention, and it was analysed with a TeloTAGGG telomerase PCR ELISA kit. Adopting the principle of intention to treat, we used a mixed-effects model to analyse adjusted telomerase activity. Ethical approval was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of the University of Hong Kong/Hospital Authority Hong Kong West Cluster (Reference number UW12-555, Jan 9, 2013). All participants provided written informed consent. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02060123. Findings Between March 12, 2014, and May 26, 2016, we enrolled 271 participants of whom 136 were assigned to the intervention group and 135 to the control group. 247 (91%) participants completed the intervention (attrition 9%). Telomerase activity increased significantly in intervention group (from 186.93 to 265.86, relative unit to internal standard, p=0.015) but not in the control group (from 251.57 to 241.16, p=0.742), and the group x time interaction effect was significant (p=0.049). Interpretation Evidence from the study may inform the use of mind-body interventions for alleviating accelerated cellular ageing in abused Chinese women. Strengths of the study include robust study design, objective biomarkers, and low attrition while the short follow-up is among the limitations.
Tiwari, A., Cheung, D. S. T., Deng, W., Fong, D. Y. T., & Tsao, S. W. (2017). Effect of a qigong intervention on telomerase activity of Chinese women survivors of intimate partner violence: a single-blind, waitlist, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 390, S23. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(17)33161-6