Researchers from the Saint-Luc University Clinics and UCLouvain have shown, in a study published in the American journal Aging, that a large proportion of patients hospitalized for severe forms of Covid-19 have telomeres that are shorter than the general population. general. A second research has just been launched to assess the link between the size of telomeres and the extent of sequelae in the lungs, the Saint-Luc university clinics announced on Wednesday.
In charge of a Covid unit during the first wave, Antoine Froidure, pulmonologist in Saint-Luc and professor at UCLouvain, launched a study on hospitalized patients and the size of their telomeres, the DNA fragments at the end of chromosomes that shrink as cells divide. He worked in collaboration with the epigenetics laboratory of Anabelle Decottignies, which had a reference database of 491 people, whose telomeres had been measured using an innovative fluorescence technique implemented at the Saint- Luc.
Of the 70 Covid + patients aged 27 to 96 tested, 40% have shorter telomeres than 90% of people in their age group in the control group. “Having short telomeres predisposes to developing more serious forms”, concludes Anabelle Decottignies. “The length of telomeres decreases with age, but is also determined by genetic characteristics and can be altered by environment, lifestyle.” “This research is one of the first to try to show a mechanism by which people develop severe forms”, adds Antoine Froidure. “It explains in part why the elderly are more at risk, because of shorter telomeres with age, but also in part the variations in risk in young people”, he concludes.
Anabelle Decottignies is an FNRS research associate. With her team, which is notably funded by Télévie, she studies telomeres in cancer research and more particularly osteosarcomas (bone cancer) in children. We interviewed her about it last September.