April 6, 2010

Researchers Searching For Genetic Secrets Of Longevity

Centenarians are the fastest growing age demographic in the world, and now Danish researchers are attempting to uncover the secrets behind their longevity.

"If you make it to 100, you must have had good health and a good life -- otherwise you wouldn't be at the tail end of the age distribution curve," Kaare Christensen of the Danish Aging Research Center told Reuters in an April 6 interview. "So basically, we're trying to figure out how they do it."

To that end, Christensen is studying the genes of individuals who are at least 100 years of age, hoping their DNA will provide insight into how to make medicine to help combat age-related diseases.

While diet, exercise, and other factors also play important roles in reaching the century mark, the goal of the genetic research, according to Reuters Health and Science Correspondent Kate Kelland, is "improving the health of rapidly aging populations and squeezing to a minimum the amount of time at the end of their lives when they are sick, in pain, or dependent."

There are approximately 450,000 centenarians in the world today, and according to Kelland, that number could increase to a million or more within the next two decades. Thanks to modern scientific technology, researchers have already discovered genes related to Alzheimer's, heart disease, and diabetes, and now drug companies have begun attempting to create products based on that information while scientists have been attempting to find ways to copy "longevity genes."

Because of their work, people could potentially live not just longer, but also experience a better quality of life in their twilight years.

"None of us, probably, wants another five years in a nursing home," Linda Partridge, the director of University College London's Institute of Healthy Aging, told Kelland on April 6. "But an additional five years without any particular health problems would be another matter."


On the Net: