Team finds that telomere length can have a direct correlation to heart failure in humans

September 7, 2017
Telomeres. Credit: Penn Medicine

Each cell in the average human body contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, with four telomeres on each pair. Telomeres cover the end of the chromosome, protecting it from deterioration or fusion with adjacent chromosomes, much like the plastic tip at the end of a shoelace protects it from unraveling. While there is a length range for classifying a healthy telomere, researchers found, for the first time ever, that people with heart failure have shorter telomeres within the cells that make up the heart muscle (known as cardiomyocytes).

A team of researchers from Penn Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Connecticut, published their findings today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, building on a methods paper which was published recently in Nature Protocols. The team is the first to have developed a method for measuring the length of telomeres using human heart tissues.

"Once we had established the method for measuring the telomeres in heart , which was tricky because human cardiac cells are rarely taken from a living person, we acquired heart tissue samples from patients receiving heart transplants and organ donors in order to evaluate length," said the study's lead researcher, Foteini Mourkioti, PhD, an assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Cell and Developmental Biology, and co-director of the Musculoskeletal Regeneration Program in the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine. "Using samples from the Penn Heart Tissue Biobank meant we were also able to acquire patient data for the samples, so we knew useful information like the patient's age, sex, and heart function."

Researchers were able to measure the telomeres in the samples of patients who had heart disease and those who did not, and group the findings into categories based on patients' age. They found that in the samples for healthy people, age did not play a role in , since the telomeres of both young and old healthy individuals were not affected. However, patients with heart failure had regardless of their age. In comparing diseased and healthy samples, researchers were able to draw a correlation between shorter telomeres and the presence of heart failure. Patients with the shortest telomeres in their cardiac cells also had the most severely decreased cardiac function. The team also found that the cardiomyocytes were the only affected by the telomere length in disease samples, but the telomere length of other cells within the same diseased heart samples were not different.

"This human tissue research is critical as it may open the door for future telomere preserving therapies to help protect heart failure patients" said co-author Kenneth B. Margulies, MD, a professor of Medicine and research director for Heart Failure and Transplantation. "While there is a need to better understand how heart disease induces telomere shortening, this is an important step in the research process, one that brings us closer to a better understanding of "

Leaning on this human data to inform basic science studies, Mourkioti and her team are now working to pinpoint pathways that specifically target cardiomyocytes, in order to track the disease progression and identity areas for therapeutic interventions that can later be tested in in-human clinical trials. "The important thing is that we now have a new lead to follow and test how cardiac-specific telomere interventions can improve function" Mourkioti said.

Explore further: Telomere length prognostic in hepatocellular carcinoma

Related Stories

Telomere length prognostic in hepatocellular carcinoma

August 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—Telomere attrition occurs in tumor cells from patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and shortened telomeres are independent prognosticators for HCC patients, according to a study published online Aug. ...

Boozing can age you right down to your cells

June 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—The more you booze it up, the more your cells age, increasing your risk for age-related health problems like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia, a new study suggests.

Mouse study links heart regeneration to telomere length

May 30, 2016
Researchers at the Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research have discovered that the ends of heart muscle cell chromosomes rapidly erode after birth, limiting the cells' ability to proliferate and replace damaged ...

Aging heart cells rejuvenated by modified stem cells

July 23, 2012
Damaged and aged heart tissue of older heart failure patients was rejuvenated by stem cells modified by scientists, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2012 Scientific ...

Longer telomeres protect against diseases of aging: A tale of mice and men

March 27, 2017
Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes discovered a key mechanism that protects mice from developing a human disease of aging, and begins to explain the wide spectrum of disease severity often seen in humans. Both aspects ...

New study finds length of DNA strands can predict life expectancy

March 10, 2013
Can the length of strands of DNA in patients with heart disease predict their life expectancy? Researchers from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, who studied the DNA of more ...

Recommended for you

Study finds immune system is critical to regeneration

September 20, 2017
The answer to regenerative medicine's most compelling question—why some organisms can regenerate major body parts such as hearts and limbs while others, such as humans, cannot—may lie with the body's innate immune system, ...

Thousands of new microbial communities identified in human body

September 20, 2017
A new study of the human microbiome—the trillions of microbial organisms that live on and within our bodies—has analyzed thousands of new measurements of microbial communities from the gut, skin, mouth, and vaginal microbiome, ...

Immune cells produce wound healing factor, could lead to new IBD treatment

September 20, 2017
Specific immune cells have the ability to produce a healing factor that can promote wound repair in the intestine, a finding that could lead to new, potential therapeutic treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according ...

As men's weight rises, sperm health may fall

September 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—A widening waistline may make for shrinking numbers of sperm, new research suggests.

Researchers find way to convert bad body fat into good fat

September 19, 2017
There's good fat and bad fat in our bodies. The good fat helps burn calories, while the bad fat hoards calories, contributing to weight gain and obesity. Now, new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. ...

New model may help science overcome the brain's fortress-like barrier

September 19, 2017
Scientists have helped provide a way to better understand how to enable drugs to enter the brain and how cancer cells make it past the blood brain barrier.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.