Centenarians owe their longevity to a gene

February 5th, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 5 (IANS) Thanks to the presence of a longevity gene, people can live up to be a 100 years or even longer as a comparison of hundreds of DNA samples from German centenarians and younger people has established. This finding has been validated by a research group at the Christian-Albrechts-University (CAU) in Kiel, Germany.

In September 2008, an American research team led by Bradley J. Willcox found a higher frequency of this genetic variation FOXO3A in long-lived Americans of Japanese origin (95 years and above).

“We have now eliminated uncertainty about the connection between FOXO3A and longevity, both by our results from the German sample study and by the support from our French partners in Paris, whose research on French centenarians showed the same trend,” said Almut Nebel, who led the research team.

“This discovery is of particular importance as there are genetic differences between Japanese and European people. We can now conclude that this gene is probably important as a factor in longevity throughout the world,” Nebel added.

FOXO3A is of great interest for genetic research on ageing, since it was reported in the 1990s that the gene was connected with ageing processes in worms and flies. It is because of those observations that the Kiel group has been working for a long time on variations of this gene in humans.

“The most difficult problem is to get enough old people, especially those aged 100 or more, to take part in such a study. Interestingly, the genetic effects are much more evident in 100-year-olds than in 95-year-olds”, noted study co-author Friederike Flachsbart of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (ICMB) at Kiel, said a CAU release.

The results appear this week in the prestigious American scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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