Length of DNA Strands Linked to Life Span

First Posted: Mar 13, 2013 07:47 AM EDT

A latest study suggests that the survival rates of patients with heart disease can be predicted based on the length of the DNA strands on the ends of telomeres, according to a news release.

The study, conducted by the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, came up with this finding after analyzing the DNA of more than 3,500 patients with heart disease.

Previous research showed that a person's age can be measured by analyzing the length of telomeres. But the expanded study showed that telomeres can also predict the life span of those with heart diseases.

According to the study presented March 9 at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session, telomeres protect the end of the chromosomes and avoid any damage to it. Telomeres get shorter as the person's age increases. On becoming too short, they cannot function properly, indicating the end of cell life. These shortened telomeres are linked with age-related diseases such as cancer or heart diseases.  

"Our research shows that if we statistically adjust for age, patients with longer telomeres live longer, suggesting that telomere length is more than just a measure of age, but may also indicate the probability for survival. Longer telomere length directly correlates with the likelihood for a longer life, even for patients with heart disease," said Dr. John Carlquist, Ph.D, director of the Intermountain Heart Institute Genetics Lab.

Dr. Carlquist and his colleagues drew on two unique resources that offered an unparalleled chance for researchers to study the effects of telomere length and survival rates of heart patients. It included an archive of peripheral blood DNA samples collected from almost 30,000 heart patients, with as much as 20 years of follow-up clinical and survival data and a chance to work with experts from around the world, including an international expert on telomere measurement and function, Richard Cawthon, M.D., Ph.D.

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