Genes predict extreme longevity

July 2nd, 2010 - 6:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 2 (IANS) Genetic variants play a critical and complex role in predicting exceptionally long lives, says a study.
Boston University (BU) researchers identified a group of genetic variants that can predict exceptional longevity in humans with 77 percent accuracy — a breakthrough in understanding the role of genes in determining human lifespan.

Based upon the hypothesis that exceptionally old individuals are carriers of multiple genetic variants that influence their remarkable survival, the team conducted a genome-wide association study of centenarians.

Centenarians are a model of healthy ageing, as the onset of disability in these individuals is generally delayed until they are well into their mid-nineties.

Researchers led by Paola Sebastiani, professor of biostatistics at the BU School of Public Health and Thomas Perls, associate professor of medicine at the BU School of Medicine, built a unique genetic model that includes 150 genetic variants.

They found that these 150 variants could be used to predict if a person survived to very old ages (late 90s and above) with a high rate of accuracy.

In addition, the team’s analysis identified 19 genetic clusters - genetic signatures - of exceptional longevity that characterized 90 percent of the centenarians studied.

The different signatures correlated with differences in the prevalence of diseases such as dementia and hypertension and may help identify key subgroups of healthy aging, the authors said.

Notably, the team found that 45 percent of the oldest centenarians - 110 years and above - had a genetic signature with the highest proportion of longevity-associated genetic variants, said a university release.

“These genetic signatures are a new advance towards personalised genomics and predictive medicine, where this analytic method may prove to be generally useful in prevention and screening of numerous diseases,” Perls said.

These findings were published online on Thursday in Science.

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