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Circ Res. 2006 Nov 24;99(11):1167-80.

Telomere biology and cardiovascular disease.

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  • 1Laboratory of Vascular Biology, Department of Molecular and Cellular Pathology and Therapy, Instituto de Biomedicina de Valencia, C/Jaime Roig 11, 46010 Valencia, Spain.

Abstract

Accumulation of cellular damage with advancing age leads to atherothrombosis and associated cardiovascular disease. Ageing is also characterized by shortening of the DNA component of telomeres, the specialized genetic segments located at the end of eukaryotic chromosomes that protect them from end-to-end fusions. By inducing genomic instability, replicative senescence and apoptosis, shortening of the telomeric DNA is thought to contribute to organismal ageing. In this Review, we discuss experimental and human studies that have linked telomeres and associated proteins to several factors which influence cardiovascular risk (eg, estrogens, oxidative stress, hypertension, diabetes, and psychological stress), as well as to neovascularization and the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Two chief questions that remain unanswered are whether telomere shortening is cause or consequence of cardiovascular disease, and whether therapies targeting the telomere may find application in treating these disorders (eg, cell "telomerization" to engineer blood vessels of clinical value for bypass surgery, and to facilitate cell-based myocardial regeneration strategies). Given that most research to date has focused on the role of telomerase, it is also of up most importance to investigate whether alterations in additional telomere-associated proteins may contribute to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease.

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