[Frontiers in Bioscience 15, 35-45, January 1, 2010]

The emerging role of telomere biology in cardiovascular disease

Jardi Huzen1, Rudolf A. de Boer1, Dirk J. van Veldhuisen1, Wiek H. van Gilst1, Pim van der Harst1

1Department of Cardiology, University Medical Centre Groningen, University of Groningen, Hanzeplein 1, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands


1. Abstract
2. Introduction
3. Telomeres and telomerase
3.1. Telomeres
3.2. Telomerase
4. Telomere in cardiovascular diseases
4.1. Telomere length in coronary artery disease
4.2. Telomere length in chronic heart failure
4.3. Telomere length and cardiovascular risk factors
5. Prognostic value of telomere length
6. Future perspectives and conclusions
6.1. Potential intervention strategies
6.2. Conclusions
7. Acknowledgements
8. References


A striking variability exists in the susceptibility, age of onset and pace of progression of cardiovascular diseases. This is inadequately explained by the presence or absence of conventional risk factors. Differences in biological aging might provide an additional component of the observed variability. Telomere length provides a potential marker of an individual's biological age, shorter telomeres reflect a more advanced biological age. Telomere length at birth is mainly determined by genetic factors. Telomere attrition occurs as a consequence of cellular replication and can be accelerated by harmful environmental factors such as oxidative stress. When telomeres reach a critical threshold the cell will enter senescence and becomes dysfunctional. Telomeres are remarkably shorter in patients with aging associated diseases, including coronary artery disease and chronic heart failure. In addition, numerous conventional cardiovascular risk factors are associated with shorter telomere length. If telomeres can be proven to be not only associated but also causally involved in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease it might provide exciting new avenues for the development of future preventive and therapeutic strategies.