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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2017 Nov 1;313(5):H1022-H1030. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00197.2017. Epub 2017 Aug 19.

Moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea is associated with telomere lengthening.

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Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
Department of Hypertension and Diabetology, Medical University of Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland.
Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; and.
Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota;


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with cardiometabolic diseases. Telomere shortening is linked to hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular diseases. Because these conditions are highly prevalent in OSA, we hypothesized that telomere length (TL) would be reduced in OSA patients. We identified 106 OSA and 104 non-OSA subjects who underwent polysomnography evaluation. Quantitative PCR was used to measure telomere length in genomic DNA isolated from peripheral blood samples. The association between OSA and TL was determined using unadjusted and adjusted linear models. There was no difference in TL between the OSA and non-OSA (control) group. However, we observed a J-shaped relationship between TL and OSA severity: the longest TL in moderate-to-severe OSA [4,918 ± 230 (SD) bp] and the shortest TL in mild OSA (4,735 ± 145 bp). Mean TL in moderate-to-severe OSA was significantly longer than in the control group after adjustment for age, sex, body mass index, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and depression (β = 96.0, 95% confidence interval: 15.4-176.6, P = 0.020). In conclusion, moderate-to-severe OSA is associated with telomere lengthening. Our findings support the idea that changes in TL are not unidirectional processes, such that telomere shortening occurs with age and disease but may be prolonged in moderate-to-severe OSA.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Here, we show that moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea is associated with longer telomeres, independent of age and cardiovascular risk factors, challenging the hypothesis that telomere shortening is a unidirectional process related to age/disease. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying telomere dynamics may identify targets for therapeutic intervention in cardiovascular aging/other chronic diseases.


intermittent hypoxemia; obstructive sleep apnea; telomere length

[Available on 2018-11-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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