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 that 3,500 patients with heart disease, say yes it can. In the new study, presented Saturday, March 9, 2013, at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session in San Francisco, the researchers were able to predict survival rates among patients with heart disease based on the length of strands of DNA found at the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres—the longer the patient's telomeres, the greater the chance of living a longer life. The study is one of 17 studies from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center that are being presented at the scientific session, which is being attended by thousands of cardiologists and heart experts from around the world. Previous research has shown that telomere length can be used as a measure of age, but these expanded findings suggest that telomere length may also predict the life expectancy of patients with heart disease. Telomeres protect the ends of chromosome from becoming damaged. As people get older, their telomeres get shorter until the cell is no longer able to divide. Shortened telomeres are associated with age-related diseases such as heart disease or cancer, as well as exposure to oxidative damage from stress, smoking, air pollution, or conditions that accelerate biologic aging. "Chromosomes by their nature get shorter as we get older," said John Carlquist, Ph.D., director of the Intermountain Heart Institute Genetics Lab. "Once they become too short, they no longer function properly, signaling the end of life for the cell. And when cells reach this stage, the patient's risk for age-associated diseases increases dramatically." Dr.
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