WEDNESDAY, March 9, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Changes in cholesterol may speed heart disease in children affected by the premature aging disease progeria, researchers report.
Progeria is a rare, fatal genetic condition in which children show signs of accelerated aging such as aged-looking skin, loss of hair and body fat, joint stiffness, hip dislocation, atherosclerosis, and growth failure.
That aging occurs within the cardiovascular system, too, so that "all children with progeria die between the ages of 6 and 20 years from heart failure or stroke," study lead author Dr. Leslie Gordon, medical director of the Progeria Research Foundation and assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.
Reporting in the March Journal of Pediatrics, Gordon's team of researchers said decreased levels of HDL (good) cholesterol may contribute to premature heart disease in these children.
The study also found that a hormone called adiponectin, which regulates the metabolism of fat and sugar, may be linked to the disease process. This information may help scientists find ways to treat progeria, the researchers said.
"Studying heart disease as it relates to children with progeria can help us better understand how atherosclerosis will affect the aging population while also helping these precious children," said Gordon, who has an 8-year-old son diagnosed with the disease.
She and her colleagues compared cholesterol levels in children with progeria to children without the disease. Compared to the other children, those with progeria had decreased levels of HDL cholesterol and adiponectin in their middle and later years.
Lowered levels of HDL cholesterol and adiponectin may contribute to accelerated plaque formation, the researchers speculate.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about progeria.