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Author Notes:

Viola Vaccarino, Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Rd NE, Room 3011, Atlanta, GA 30322. E-mail viola.vaccarino@emory.edu.

The sponsors of this study had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

Jue Lin is a co-founder and consultant to Telomere Diagnostics Inc.

None of the other authors report conflict of interest relevant to this article.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by the NIH (P01 HL101398, P20HL113451-01, P01HL086773-06A1, R56HL126558-01, R01 HL109413, R01HL109413A1S1, R01 HL125246, 5R01NS064162-04, 1DP3DK094346-01, 5R01AG042127-04, 1RF1AG051633-01, 5U10HL110302-04Rev, 1R56HL126558-01, 2P01HL095070-06A1, 1DP3DK108245-01REVI, 5R01HL095479-06, UL1TR000454, KL2TR000455, K24HL07HL77506, K23HL127251 and K24 MH076955).

Dr. Vaccarino and Dr. Quyyumi report research support from NIH.


  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Cardiac & Cardiovascular Systems
  • Hematology
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease
  • Cardiovascular System & Cardiology
  • aging
  • coronary artery disease
  • risk
  • stem cells
  • telomere
  • RISK

Telomere Shortening, Regenerative Capacity, and Cardiovascular Outcomes

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Journal Title:

Circulation Research


Volume 120, Number 7


, Pages 1130-+

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Rationale: Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is a biological marker of aging, and shorter LTL is associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Reduced regenerative capacity has been proposed as a mechanism. Bone marrow-derived circulating progenitor cells are involved in tissue repair and regeneration. Objective: Main objective of this study was to examine the relationship between LTL and progenitor cells and their impact on adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Methods and Results: We measured LTL by quantitative polymerase chain reaction in 566 outpatients (age: 63±9 years; 76% men) with coronary artery disease. Circulating progenitor cells were enumerated by flow cytometry. After adjustment for age, sex, race, body mass index, smoking status, and previous myocardial infarction, a shorter LTL was associated with a lower CD34 + cell count: for each 10% shorter LTL, CD34 + levels were 5.2% lower (P < 0.001). After adjustment for the aforementioned factors, both short LTL ( < Q1) and low CD34+ levels ( < Q1) predicted adverse cardiovascular outcomes (death, myocardial infarction, coronary revascularization, or cerebrovascular events) independently of each other, with a hazard ratio of 1.8 and 95% confidence interval of 1.1 to 2.0, and a hazard ratio of 2.1 and 95% confidence interval of 1.3 to 3.0, respectively, comparing Q1 to Q2-4. Patients who had both short LTL ( < Q1) and low CD34+ cell count ( < Q1) had the greatest risk of adverse outcomes (hazard ratio =3.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-7.1). Conclusions: Although shorter LTL is associated with decreased regenerative capacity, both LTL and circulating progenitor cell levels are independent and additive predictors of adverse cardiovascular outcomes in coronary artery disease patients. Our results suggest that both biological aging and reduced regenerative capacity contribute to cardiovascular events, independent of conventional risk factors.

Copyright information:

© 2016 American Heart Association, Inc.

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