Heart ailments and telomeres

Heart ailments have become a very common disabling condition while the cure of heart related diseases is quite costly and it affects a large section of the human population. The heart treatment expenditure in the USA is nearly $35 billion. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are highly associated with age and cases of heart failure are common in the aged population. Characterization of heart disease samples have found increased levels of apoptosed myocytes and attrition of the telomere. Interventions aimed at improving the length of telomeres can be an effective mode of preventing cardiovascular diseases.

Telomere and cardiovascular diseases

The dysfunctioning of telomere has been reportedly the most important reason behind cardiac failures as is evident from animal studies as well as human heart samples. Telomere shortening in animal models has showed inhibition to proliferation of myocytes coupled with myocyte hypertrophy and an enhanced rate of apoptosis. Cardiovascular diseased patients show 40% reduction in their telomere lengths when compared with the healthy normal human beings and that the shorter the length of the telomere, more is the disease severity. In addition, shortened telomeres were linked to reduction in renal function. Higher lengths of telomere are responsible for an increase of 5% ejection by the left ventricle. In the aged population the variation in the ejection capability is highly dependent on the telomere length. Also in the same population, heart related ailments show characteristics of moderate to low dilation and hypertrophy with an overall increment in the cell death. The cells exhibiting the characteristics followed the p16INK4a path and presented shorter telomeres. Besides, the patients with heart diseases and shortened telomeres have the risk of being anemic with compromised prognosis. In a study carried out by the New York Heart Association, it was observed that short telomere containing patients with heart failure (Class II-IV) were more at risk of death within a period of about 18 months. Therefore, shortened telomere lengths might be used as successful predictors of death in chronic cardiovascular diseased patients.

Cardiovascular diseases and telomerase dysfunction

Although, it is now well known that the length of the telomeres has a big impact in cardiovascular disease development and progression, there is very little knowledge regarding the dysfunctioning of telomerase in the aforesaid process. There are some studies which suggest an improvement in the infarct area associated with cardiac myocytes that followed a ligation of the coronary artery promoting better survival rates after an introduction of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT). In addition, the TERT transduced animal models are highly resistant to ischemic injuries to brain. Alternatively, it was also observed that TERT deficiency results in increased susceptibility to oxidation induced stress and stroke development. According to the work of Werner et al., an increase in physical exercises results in enhanced telomerase activity and decrease in chances of heart disease. It is noteworthy to mention that under conditions of telomerase absence, the expression of proteins that stabilize telomeres are severely hampered which presents more critical case of cardiac apoptosis. Recently, the study by Perez-Rivero and his group provided a direct linkage between hypertension and the activity of telomerase. TERC-/- models showed a much higher expression of endothelin converting enzyme thereby developing hypertension. Moreover, studies with the patients suffering from hypertrophy that involved the progenitor cells showed very low activity of telomerase and rapid rates of senescence. Also, the TERC-/- condition leads to decrease in angiogenic capacity as compared to the wild type form. They also suffer from hypertrophy of myocytes, change in the structure of the heart and failure of left ventricle. Epel et al., carried out a landmark study in 62 volunteers wherein they found that reduced activity of telomerase was linked to a number of cardiovascular disease risk factors. Among those highly implicated are smoking, fasting glucose levels, high blood pressure and a bad lipid profile. But no association could be found between the various factors and length of telomere. The study proposed that the reduced telomerase can be used as a marker of cardiovascular diseases that precedes the shorter lengthed telomeres.

The available data suggest that individuals with short lengthed telomeres are at high risks of catching with cardiovascular diseases. The increase in activity of telomerase can provide the necessary relief under such circumstances. It has been found that a regulated diet and good healthy habits can be helpful only to a limited extent. However, there are supplements present that can rejuvenate the telomerase and lead to their activation. Such activator molecules can be easy to use and without any side effects providing the beneficial effects by modulating the existing regulators within the body which otherwise had ceased to function. Human beings are continuously exposed to oxidative agents that can interfere with the functioning of the telomerases. Therefore, the intake of supplements that possess anti-oxidative properties can reverse the telomerase inhibition and promote human health.