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Wellderly Study: Healthy San Diego Seniors Play Key Role In Heart Research

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Aired 7/6/11

Thousands of healthy San Diego seniors are participating in a provocative genome study to find the root cause of heart disease.

— Scientists at the Scripps Translational Research Institute in La Jolla have dubbed the age 80 and older participants (who’ve never had heart disease) as the “Wellderly”.

The goal the of five-year study is to find out what makes Wellderly seniors immune to heart problems compared with seniors of the same age who have a history of heart disease.

Eric Topol, MD, is the lead researcher of the study. He said the study would involve stem cells and genetic comparisons between the heart-healthy and diseased groups.

“We’re focusing the study on what makes the Wellderly remarkably healthy, and that will help us to contrast changes in the human genome associated with heart disease,” said Topol.

His research will recreate the Wellderly’s heart stem cells in a petri dish. He'll then test and edit those genetic cells for further study in diseased heart cells.

Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in America. Topol said understanding the root cause of the disease could change how it is treated and possibly prevented.

“This could lead to designing a drug or potentially a vaccine. We could exploit our genetic knowledge in a very positive way,” explained Topol.

The San Diego based study was funded by a $7.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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