Sunday, July 04, 2010

Scientists show longevity tied to genetic variants

A new study is getting a lot of buzz in the media: genetic variants and longevity. In the press release from researchers reporting in science, word has it that while environment and family history are factors in healthy aging, genetic variants play a critical and complex role in conferring exceptional longevity.

Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the Boston Medical Center reported the study.

The research team 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 aging, as the onset of disability in these individuals is generally delayed until they are well into their mid-nineties.

The scientists built a unique genetic model that includes 150 genetic variants, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).They found that these 150 variants could be used to predict if a person survived to very old ages (late 90s and older) with a high rate of accuracy.

In addition, the team's analysis identified 19 genetic clusters or "genetic signatures" of exceptional longevity that characterized 90 percent of the centenarians studied. The different signatures correlated with differences in the prevalence and age-of-onset of diseases such as dementia and hypertension, and may help identify key subgroups of healthy aging, the authors said.

Check out the New England Centenarian Study.