Scientists have shown for the first time that the loss of the Y chromosome can harm the heart

A new study suggests that age-related loss of the Y chromosome — a piece of human DNA that is unique to men — raises the risk of potentially life-threatening heart problems in men as they get older.

The discovery, detailed in the journal Science, paves the way for a simple test to identify men whose Y chromosome count puts them at higher risk for conditions like heart failure, in which the diseased heart struggles to pump blood throughout the body.

Humans have two sex chromosomes, X and Y. Males usually have one each, while females have two X chromosomes.

Scientists have known for decades that some men begin to lose Y chromosomes from their cells as they get older.

A new study suggests that age-related loss of the Y chromosome — a piece of human DNA that is unique to men — raises the risk of potentially life-threatening heart problems in men as they get older.

For example, a previous study of thousands of men in the UK found that about a fifth of people aged 40 to 70 were missing chromosomes. This phenomenon, known as Y-loss, has been linked to a range of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s, as well as a shorter lifespan.

However, scientists have not been able to determine whether the loss of the Y chromosome is the direct cause of the disease or, like wrinkles or gray hair, it is simply a sign of aging.

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Now scientists have shown for the first time that the loss of the Y chromosome can harm the heart. (Women also experience the loss of their sex chromosomes, but this is not associated with reduced life expectancy and disease.)

Scientists from the University of Virginia in the US and Uppsala University in Sweden have proven this link for the first time in mice.

They showed that mice that lacked Y chromosomes in white blood cells (the loss of Y chromosomes is most easily measured in white blood cells) died earlier than mice that still had Y chromosomes.

Mice low in Y chromosomes also developed fibrosis, or thickening of the heart muscle. This thickening makes the heart stiff and difficult to pump blood.

The researchers then moved on to humans and examined medical and genetic information from more than 223,000 men who donated blood samples to the British Biobank, a large health database.

They found that men who lost the Y chromosome from more than 40 percent of their white blood cells were 31 percent more likely to die from heart disease, including heart failure, over the next 12 years than those who did not. Y-free.

The researchers concluded that, taken together, these results indicate that Y-loss contributes to heart muscle fibrosis, cardiac dysfunction, and mortality in men.

They suggest that the loss of the Y chromosome affects the functioning of some cells in the heart, causing fibrosis and heart disease.

Professor Kenneth Walsh, who led the study, told Good Health: “As we age, we develop fibrosis in various tissues and organs, including the heart, kidneys and lungs. And this process is accelerated due to the loss of Y chromosomes.”

However, the rate of Y chromosome loss varies. “Some men lose it very quickly – they are super losers – but others do not, and we do not yet understand why this is so,” says Professor Walsh.

In the future, testing for Y-chromosome loss may lead to the identification of “super-losers”.

“If you are one of those men who lose most of their Y chromosomes, then this may be an indication for a visit to a specialist who can do an MRI of the heart to measure the degree of fibrosis,” says Professor Walsh.

Although there is currently no cure for cardiac fibrosis, scientists are working on new drugs that can reverse the damage.

Professor John Perry, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge who has studied Y-loss, said the results are interesting but urged men not to worry, saying: “It’s a very modest risk factor for cardiovascular disease compared to other factors that are more important.” important ones such as blood pressure, weight, and “bad” LDL cholesterol.

“These other factors are modifiable, while there’s nothing you can do about Y-loss,” he says.

“The only thing there is little evidence for is that if you smoke and quit smoking, the Y-loss rate may decrease a bit.”

“The ultimate hope here is that we can manage the Y-loss, that we can reverse the effects of the Y-loss and have healthy hearts as a result,” adds Dr Mikhail Spivakov, a geneticist at Imperial College London.