Researchers have long speculated that the shortening of telomeres increases the risk of heart attack and early death. Now a large-scale population study in Denmark involving nearly 20,000 people shows that there is in fact a direct link, and has also given physicians a future way to test the actual cellular health of a person.
Professor Borge Nordestgaard explains the study and the breakthrough results in the video above. Credits: Speak: Henrietta von Schilling. Camera: Carl Hagman and Tue Nielsen. Production: Tue Nielsen and Lasse Foghsgaard, Experimentarium.
In an ongoing study of almost 20,000 Danes, a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen have isolated each individual’s DNA to analyse their specific telomere length – a measurement of cellular aging.
"The risk of heart attack or early death is present whether your telomeres are shortened due to lifestyle or due to high age," says Clinical Professor of Genetic Epidemiology Borge Nordestgaard from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen. Professor Nordestgaard is also a chief physician at Copenhagen University Hospital, where he and colleagues conduct large scale studies of groups of tens of thousands of Danes over several decades.Lifestyle can affect cellular aging
"That smoking and obesity increases the risk of heart disease has been known for a while. We have now shown, as has been speculated, that the increased risk is directly related to the shortening of the protective telomeres - so you can say that smoking and obesity ages the body on a cellular level, just as surely as the passing of time," says Borge Nordestgaard.
"Future studies will have to reveal the actual molecular mechanism by which the short telomere length causes heart attacks," says Borge Nordestgaard, and asks, "Does one cause the other or is the telomere length and the coronary event both indicative of a third - yet unknown - mechanism?"
Another possible prospect of the study is that general practitioners could conduct simple blood tests to reveal a person's telomere length and thereby the cellular wear and age.
The study "Short Telomere Length, Myocardial Infarction, Ischemic Heart Disease, and Early Death ” is scheduled for the March issue of the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology published by the American Heart Association. The March issue will mail on 16 February 2012, and the journal article is also available online.Contact
Professor Borge Nordestgaard | EurekAlert!
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