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Genetic Signatures of Exceptional Longevity in Humans.
Sebastiani P, Solovieff N, Puca A, Hartley SW, Melista E, Andersen S, Dworkis DA, Wilk JB, Myers RH, Steinberg MH, Montano M, Baldwin CT, Perls TT, Science 2010 Jul 1

Selected by | Kevin Conley, University of Washington, United States of America

Genes, lifestyle and longevity: do we thank our parents or ourselves for a long life? Analysis of gene variation among centenarians points to clusters of polymorphisms that indicate that genes are as important as good lifestyle choices for extended longevity.

New genetic technologies now allow us to ask how nature versus how we nurture ourselves determines how long we live. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) provide a means to assess the role of genetic variants in living a long life. Sabastiani et al. found in a large cohort of centenarians (n=1055) and controls (n=1267) that a set of 150 SNPs predict with 77% accuracy whether an individual will have extended longevity. The longevity-associated variants (LAV) of SNP fell into 19 clusters that provided genetic signatures for longevity and appeared to be additive in their impact on survival to extreme age perhaps by countering the impact in disease-related alleles. In contrast, non-genetic factors that reduced the risk of disease resulted in a high predictive value for long life in an earlier study that followed a cohort of individuals (n=2357) over time. Yates et al. found a 54% probability that a 70-year-old would reach a 90-year lifespan if smoking, metabolic disease and sloth were lacking {1}. With five adverse lifestyle factors, the probability of a long life was close to zero. These studies indicate that non-genetic determinants resulting from lifestyle choices such as not smoking, weight management and regular exercise have nearly the same predictive power as genes in determining how long we live. Thus, these two studies suggest that we can thank ourselves almost as much as our parents for healthy aging into a long life.

References: {1} Yates et al. Arch Intern Med 2008, 168:284-90 [PMID:18268169].


Evaluated 20 July 2010
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