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Approved Research

The role of telomere length in cardiovascular and pulmonary aging and its potential to improve risk prediction of cardiovascular diseases

Principal Investigator: Dr Mehrdad Emami
Approved Research ID: 76720
Approval date: January 12th 2022

Lay summary


Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or disorders of the heart rhythm tend to occur more frequently at an older age. However, these diseases could occur in relatively young individuals. The occurrence of heart diseases in a younger population could be due to premature aging at the level of the cells, which is faster than the normal chronological aging. The chronologically young individual with a heart attack or stroke could be older at the cellular level. Chromosomes, which are packages of DNA (genetic material) in our cells, have a protective cap at their ends called telomeres. Telomeres become shorter as cells get older. Abnormal shortening of telomeres may contribute to premature cellular aging and cellular death, leading to premature cardiovascular disease. However, it is unclear how strong is the association between telomere length and cardiovascular disease.

Research aims:

Therefore, the project that we are proposing will use the unique and large population-based data from the UK Biobank:

1- To see whether there is a link and, if any, how strong is the link between telomere length or telomere attrition and chronological age (from birthdate), and cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension or diabetes;

2- To see whether as telomere attrition progresses, the functions of the heart and the lungs decline;

3- To see whether as telomere become shorter, cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke, heart failure, heart rhythm disorders) become more prevalent;

4- To see whether the length of telomere can be used as a predictor of a cardiovascular event (Predicting the risk of cardiac arrhythmias, heart attack, or stroke in the general public with no history of cardiovascular disease)

Public health impact:

The knowledge gained from this project could improve the detection, management, prevention, and monitoring of patients with cardiovascular diseases.

Timeline: This project is expected to be completed within a maximum of 36 months of reception of UK Biobank data.