Can We Predict How Long We Are Going To Live?

Life expectancyFollowing a previous research, which revealed that longer telomeres on the ends of chromosomes could lead to a longer life, the new study helped researchers predict the life expectancy among patients with heart disease based on the length of these strands of DNA. Zintro experts discuss whether the new findings will lead to better heart care treatment.

As molecular geneticist, Nicola Marziliano indicates, the sequential loss of telomeric DNA within each cell division is a marker of biological aging and, it may trigger cell senescence when it reaches a critical point. “Telomere attrition in humans has been documented in various tissues during aging, and is more pronounced in chronic diseases associated with a high cell turnover. The development of atherosclerotic plaques is characterized by an increase in the rate of replication and death of cells such as endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in response to injury due to an inflammatory response,” he explains. “It is therefore conceivable that the high turnover of VSMCs observed in coronary plaques can be positively associated to abrupt events like Myocardial Infarction.” Marziliano further points out that the telomeres within cells, which belong to atherosclerotic plaques are significantly shorter in unstable than in stable coronary plaques regardless of their age. “Previous studies have shown that circulating leukocytes from patients with severe coronary artery disease, or premature myocardial infarction have significantly shorter telomeres than controls. One possible explanation is the higher  turnover in unstable plaques, which have lower levels of telomerase gene and higher levels of apoptotic gene expression,” he adds. “Other possible explanations are that local hemodynamic factors, including shear wall stress may act differently in unstable than stable coronary plaques, or that the shorter length may be due to a primary de novo genetic abnormality affecting telomerase/telomere function.  However taking together these findings pinpoint the role of telomeres as biomarkers of initiation and progression of atherosclerotic disease.”

Cardiac pacing specialist, Steve Mayfield considers knowledge of the telomere and it’s role in longevity as well established. “I can remember articles about the telomere in Scientific American going back over 20 years. Scientists have many years of effort behind them trying to slow or stop the degradation of the telomere. Doing so may inhibit cell death by making them infinitely reproducible and as robust as their first replication,” notes Mayfield. “If telomere length predicts effective cell replication, it would also predict this in patients with heart disease just as it would for those without heart disease. Effective heart care treatment can not make telomeres longer. The notion that telomeres could be measured within a time frame where one could deduce effective or ineffective treatment is very unlikely.”

By Idil Kan

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