Cigarette smoke affects your DNA

A recent study proposed the idea that damage to our DNA at the telomeres contributes to lung ageing, continuing damage and worsening COPD symptoms. Also that cigarette smoke increases and encourages such damage to the telomeres.
Telomeres are specialized structures at the ends of chromosomes within our DNA that protect it from deterioration and prevent fusing with nearby chromosomes. COPD has long been associated with accelerated lung aging and abnormal cell division. Telomeres shorten with each cell division, therefore the more the cell divides the less protection the DNA strands have.
In a newer study they investigated telomere dysfunction in lung airway cells from patients with COPD using lung aging mouse models exposed to cigarette smoke. They found that there was no difference in telomere length between control patients and COPD patients, which contradicts the previous study although they say that this could be due to a small sample size and will need to be repeated with a larger amount of samples.
With age they observed an increase in telomere dysfunction and that this was also increased with exposure to cigarette smoke. They found that the cigarette smoke accelerated the telomere dysfunction by increasing levels of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and aided in the secretion of inflammatory cytokines.
As a result, the team highlighted that their findings suggest that telomeres are particularly susceptible to damage triggered by cigarette smoke, and that this may lead to an accelerated decline of lung function in both aging and COPD patients.  So whether you have COPD or have normal respiratory health, exposure to cigarette smoke will trigger telomere dysfunction, affecting the DNA within the cells and causing damage to the cells in your lungs. And thereby  reducing respiratory function in the elderly and worsening symptoms in COPD patients. This study suggests that the elderly and patients suffering from respiratory illness should not only stop smoking but also not be around other smokers in order to preserve their respiratory health.

Low oxygen levels affect your dna

dna and low oxygen levels
When cells are functioning normally the DNA structure within them is open in order for molecules to be able to access parts of the genetic code that it contains. This is so that important proteins can be instructed to be made and allow the cell to function.
A new study has found that when a cell is starved of oxygen it results in the DNA strand coiling up and compacting itself into tight clusters. This means that molecules cannot access the DNA strand, the genes cannot be read as easily and the cell’s activity is reduced and the cell effectively shuts down resulting in cell death.
This starved state is seen in common diseases like heart attacks, stroke and cancer. However it is also important for those that suffer from any condition that results in low oxygen levels in the body such as COPD, sleep apnoea and asthma. Low levels of oxygen trying to circulate around the body tend to be prioritised to the more important organs and other areas see low/starved oxygen levels. It highlights the importance of monitoring your oxygen levels and ensuring that you use your supplemental oxygen to ensure that you have adequate levels of oxygen in your body.
If low oxygen results in DNA compaction and cell death then it could help to explain why COPD sufferers often experience a combination of various other health conditions and diseases.
When a person suffers a heart attack or stroke, it can cause long-term damage because the restricted blood supply to the heart and brain starves the affected cells of oxygen and nutrients (ischemia). Oxygen starvation (hypoxia) can also result from other disease conditions, such as in cancer tumours. When this happens to cells in the heart, it leads to a heart attack and when it happens in the brain, it leads to a stroke.
Senior author Dr. George Reid explains:
“When you have a stroke, when you have a heart attack, this is likely to be what’s happening to your DNA. Now we know that this is what’s going on, we can start to look at ways of preventing this compaction of DNA.”
If drugs for example can be developed to prevent this DNA contraction then it may prevent long-term damage from strokes and heart attacks as well as a host of other medical conditions that afflict suffers of respiratory diseases.

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