As Y Chromosomes Vanish, Heart Risks May Grow
By: Katherine Wu
Last Thursday, researchers found that people who lose their Y chromosomes can be affected severely. However, many people don’t realize this. The effects can go as far as heart risks or failure, and can cause a shortened life span.
New research utilizing genetically altered male mice lacking Y chromosomes are what researchers used to show the effects. In a study published in Science, scar tissue developed in the heart of mice with missing Y chromosome blood cells, leading to heart failure and a shorter life span. Missing Y chromosomes could just be a symptom of aging and growing gray hair, but the loss of Y chromosomes could partially explain the gap between the life expectancies of people with X and Y chromosomes.
“The authors really nailed it here,” said Dr. Ross Levine, the deputy physician in chief for translational research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “It’s super important work.”
When Uppsala University researcher Lars Forsberg learned that the Y chromosomes in fruit flies were more significant than was previously thought, he was motivated to conduct further study. He reviewed information on 1,153 elderly men who were participants in a major Swedish study.
“I had the data in a few hours, and I was like, ‘Wow,’” Dr. Forsberg said. “I saw that men with loss of Y in a large proportion of their blood cells survived only half as long, 5.5 years versus 11.1 years.”
“You can imagine my surprise,” he continued. “Of course, I redid everything.”
Forsberg then received a call from Kenneth Walsh, the director of the Hematovascular Biology Center at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Together, Forsberg and Walsh found that the more Y chromosomes a person loses, the more they are at risk of severe health complications.
It is too early to recommend any actions people should take to prevent the loss of their Y chromosomes, except quitting smoking. Medicine won't help the consequences or lessen the effects of the process.