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BOB HIRSHON (host):
What turns heart valves to bone? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
As people age, the heart’s aortic valve can become calcified and stiff – a fatal condition unless the valve is replaced. In the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Gladstone Institute cardiologist Deepak Srivastava and his colleagues report that the culprit may be short telomeres – those are the protective caps on our chromosomes. He says that mice have long telomeres, and never get the disease.
DEEPAK SRIVASTAVA (Gladstone Institute, UC San Francisco):
And what we found was when we made those shorter, to be similar to humans, then lo and behold, the mice have exactly the same disease as humans do.
Somehow, the short telomeres cause some heart cells to begin secreting calcium, as if they’re bone cells. The discovery has enabled the team to develop a potential therapy that may prevent this common and sometimes lethal condition. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.
Story by Bob Hirshon