Length of Your DNA Can Predict Your Life Expectancy

Researchers from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City suggest that the length of strands of DNA found on the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres in patients with heart disease can predict their life expectancy.

The study was based on an archive of peripheral blood DNA samples collected from almost 30,000 heart patients, with as much as 20 years of follow-up clinical and survival data.

Telomeres are caps on the ends of chromosomes whose job it is to protect the DNA from degradation. The usually get shorter with age and short telomeres are known to be associated with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, contracting a viral, as well as exposure to oxidative damage from stress, smoking, air pollution, or conditions that accelerate biologic ageing.

"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. Calquest, , PhD, director of the Intermountain Heart Institute Genetics Lab.

Cells that proliferate constantly, like stem cells, do not lose their telomeres and appear to be ageless. Scientists hope to harness information about this process to possibly alter the aging process.