Blood biomarker can help predict disease progression in patients with COPD

July 12, 2018, Elsevier
Micrograph showing emphysema (left – large empty spaces) and lung tissue with relative preservation of the alveoli (right). Credit: Wikipedia

Some patients with COPD demonstrate signs of accelerated aging. In a new study published in the journal CHEST researchers report that measuring blood telomeres, a marker of aging of cells, can be used to predict future risk of the disease worsening or death. Further, they have determined that the drug azithromycin may help patients with short telomeres, an indicator of more rapid biological aging, stave off negative clinical outcomes.

"Previous studies have suggested that COPD may be a disease of accelerated aging for a variety of reasons including its close relation to senescence-related disorders, such as osteoporosis and dementia, and its exponential increase in prevalence beyond 50 years of age. One important biomarker of replicative senescence is telomere length. It is known that short telomeres are associated with common comorbidities of COPD, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, but it was not known if there is a relationship between blood telomeres and patient-related outcomes in COPD," explained lead investigator Don D. Sin, MD, FCCP, of the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, St. Paul's Hospital, and the Department of Medicine (Respiratory Division) of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Telomeres are specific repetitive DNA sequences found on the ends of chromosomes. Somewhat like aglets, the protective plastic tips found at the ends of shoelaces, they help to prevent harmful DNA events including abnormal genetic recombinations or deletions. Each time a cell replicates, the telomeres become progressively shorter until they cease to divide, a process known as cellular aging or senescence.

Researchers used data from the Macrolide Azithromycin for Prevention of Exacerbations of COPD (MACRO) study, which included participants from 17 sites across 12 academic health centers in the United States. This study included 576 patients with moderate-to-severe COPD, who had provided a blood sample for DNA analysis. Absolute telomere length was measured to determine the age of the cells in the blood samples. Previous research had found that telomere measurement in blood leukocytes () was associated with clinical findings in lung tissue. The researchers divided the group into individuals with shorter and longer telomere lengths, using the median value of absolute length as the cutoff. Patients were followed for up to 3.5 years.

Researchers found that patients with short telomeres, indicating more rapidly aging blood cells, were 50 percent more likely to have exacerbations (new or increased respiratory symptoms) and nine times more likely to die than those with normal blood telomeres. Patients with short telomeres also experienced worse health status and poorer quality of life. Health status was measured using the St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ), which included assessment of daily activities, , and perceived psychological impact.

"The good news is that these differences were not observed when patients with short telomeres were treated with daily azithromycin therapy," reported Dr. Sin. "This suggests that this biomarker may help select those with COPD who will benefit most from azithromycin treatment. Peripheral leukocyte telomeres are readily accessible and easy to measure; thus, they may represent a clinically translatable biomarker for patient risk-stratification and identifying individuals at increased risk of poor patient-centered outcomes in COPD."

Explore further: Precision genomics point the way to mutations associated with accelerated aging

More information: "Relationship of Absolute Telomere Length with Quality of Life, Exacerbations, and Mortality in COPD," CHEST (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.chest.2018.05.022

Related Stories

Precision genomics point the way to mutations associated with accelerated aging

July 5, 2018
Mayo Clinic researchers are using precision genomics to search for undiscovered, inheritable genetic mutations that cause accelerated aging. In a study recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers conducted ...

$89 test kit claims to determine how well your cells are aging. Does it work?

November 28, 2016
A new $89 test claims to calculate the age of the DNA in your cells and tell you how well you are aging. The test, called TeloYears, is the newest in a bunch of mail-order kits that measure the length of telomeres, the caps ...

Anxiety linked to shortened telomeres, accelerated aging: research

July 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Is anxiety related to premature aging? A new study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) shows that a common form of anxiety, known as phobic anxiety, was associated with shorter telomeres ...

New test more effective at predicting survival in blood cancer patients

May 10, 2017
Technology that can detect the length of small DNA structures in cancer cells could hold the key to predicting the outcome of patients with two different types of blood cancer. The test, used in conjunction with current methods, ...

Ultra short telomeres linked to osteoarthritis

January 16, 2012
Telomeres, the very ends of chromosomes, become shorter as we age. When a cell divides it first duplicates its DNA and, because the DNA replication machinery fails to get all the way to the end, with each successive cell ...

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.

Recommended for you

Enzyme identified as possible novel drug target for sickle cell disease, Thalassemia

July 19, 2018
Medical researchers have identified a key signaling protein that regulates hemoglobin production in red blood cells, offering a possible target for a future innovative drug to treat sickle cell disease (SCD). Experiments ...

Mice given metabolite succinate found to lose weight by turning up the heat

July 19, 2018
A team of researchers with members from institutions across the U.S. and Canada has found that giving the metabolite succinate to mice fed a high-fat diet prevented obesity. In their paper published in the journal Nature, ...

Supplement may ease the pain of sickle cell disease

July 19, 2018
(HealthDay)—An FDA-approved supplement reduces episodes of severe pain in people with sickle cell disease, a new clinical trial shows.

Scientists uncover DNA 'shield' with crucial roles in normal cell division

July 18, 2018
Scientists have made a major discovery about how cells repair broken strands of DNA that could have huge implications for the treatment of cancer.

Researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

July 18, 2018
Scientists from the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute have developed a new bone engineering technique called Segmental Additive Tissue Engineering (SATE). The technique, described in a paper published ...

Researchers report protein kinase as the switch controlling obesity and diabetes

July 18, 2018
One of the research lines targeting the worldwide obesity epidemic is the manipulation of brown adipose tissue, a 'good' type of fat that burns lipids to maintain an appropriate body temperature. Researchers at the Centro ...

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.