January 20, 2012
Clusters Of Genes Determine Who Will Reach 100
Scientists now boast that they can predict who will live to be 100 with astounding accuracy using on a complex review of genetic markers for healthy aging.
A team of Boston University researchers devised the genetic formula for longevity based on a detailed study of the DNA of centenarians.
Their research, published in PLoS ONE, focused on identifying common genetic variations thought to be associated with healthy aging in over 800 centenarians and 914 healthy subjects of varying ages. The results pointed to some 281 different genetic markers which could be grouped in 26 different combinations or “genetic signatures.”
The presence of these signatures, the researchers say, could then be used to predict with 60 — 85 percent accuracy who would live to see the ripe old age 100.
Many of the individual old-age genes have been known to play a critical role in preventing or delaying age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer´s and heart disease.
But the ability to determine various combinations of genes that lead to a long healthy life could potentially help researchers find treatments for an array of age-related diseases.
“Further study of these genetic characteristics may yield a better understanding of the genetic and biological bases of delaying or escaping age-related diseases and achieving longer survival,” said one of the study´s lead authors Dr. Thomas Perls.
While the effects of non-genetic lifestyle factors like smoking and diet inevitably play a role in aging as well, biologists have long known that many critical factors in predicting longevity are genetic. A simple study of the family trees of centenarians reveals that old age is something that tends to run in the family.
Yet what´s particularly illuminating about the results of this study is that it highlights a rather sudden shift in significance towards genetic factors as a person ages. The older a person gets, the larger the role played by genetics in determining longevity. Scientists estimate that our DNA only influences our chance of living to the age of 85 by around 20 — 30 per cent. After 85, however, genetic factors take on a much more significant role in aging because certain genes are able to stave-off various illnesses that typically set in when people hit their 80s.
The researchers carried out an almost identical study in 2010 but had to eventually retract it due to problems with the data. The study published Thursday amended these procedural snags and was independently reviewed by a group of scientists at Yale.
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