BACKGROUND: Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) reduce mortality in patients with ischaemic cardiomyopathy at high risk of ventricular arrhythmias (VA). However, the current indication for ICD prescription needs improvement. Telomere and telomerase in leucocytes have been shown to associate with biological ageing and pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases. We hypothesised that leucocyte telomere length, load-of-short telomeres and/or telomerase activity are associated with VA occurrence in ischaemic cardiomyopathy patients.
METHODS AND RESULTS: 90 ischaemic cardiomyopathy patients with primary prevention ICDs were recruited. 35 had received appropriate therapy from the ICD for potentially-fatal VA while the remaining 55 patients had not. No significant differences in baseline demographic data relevant to telomere biology were seen between the two groups. There was no significant difference in the age and sex adjusted mean telomere length analysed by qPCR between the groups (p=0.88). In contrast, the load-of-short telomeres assessed by Universal-STELA method and telomerase activity by TRAP assay were both higher in patients who had appropriate ICD therapy and were significantly associated with incidence of ICD therapy (p=0.02, p=0.02). ROC analyses demonstrated that the sensitivity and specificity of these telomere dynamics in predicting potentially-fatal VA was higher than the current gold-standard - left ventricular ejection fraction (AUC 0.82 versus 0.47).
CONCLUSION: The load-of-short telomeres and telomerase activity had a significant association with ICD therapy (for VA) in ischaemic cardiomyopathy patients. These biomarkers should be tested in prospective studies to assess their clinical utility in predicting VA after myocardial infarction and guiding primary prevention ICD prescription.