Growing old can be either a pleasant experience, or a very unpleasant one, depending on each of us. But scientists do what scientists do, so they decided to examine the reason why some people get to be very old and others don’t.
- Five genes have been found to be particularly responsible for longevity
- The Alzheimer’s gene, ApoE, is related to a decreased longevity
- A heart disease gene is connected to your cells’ life spans
- The blood type gene, especially the O blood type, is related to overall better health
- The immune system’s HLA gene is connected to successful transplants
- A fifth gene connected to neurological diseases was found to increase longevity in fruit flies
Scientists led by Stuart Kim, a professor of developmental biology and genetics at Stanford University, wanted to look into the much disputed theory of what gene region is responsible for an increased life span.
The dispute is quite simple to explain, but difficult to actually test.
Some groups of scientists believe that some people live to be 100 due to them possessing some genes that ensure their prolonged life spans, while other groups believe that the reason behind people living to be centennials is because they have genes that protect them from diseases.
The researchers led by Dr. Kim found out that the reason could very well be neither.
After extensive testing and verifying of gene sequences, it turns out that centennials might actually have fewer genes that contribute to major diseases.
This doesn’t mean that the previous two theories were wrong, so centennials could still have genes that protect them from diseases, as well as genes that help them age, but they also possess fewer disease-causing genes than their shorter lived counterparts.
In order to perform his tests, Dr. Kim employed a brand new type of genetic analysis.
Usually, tot test for something like this, scientists would compare the genomes of centennials and those of people with average life spans, and try to pick up any differences; however that would lead to a large number of false leads.
In order to get rid of some of the potential false leads, Dr. Kim assumed that disease genes will automatically reduce the odds of someone living to 100, so instead he focused just on known disease-causing genes in his analysis.
This led him to discover the five genes he related to longevity.
Further tests will have to be performed in order to more accurately identify the genes and to figure out their exact role in helping some people live to be over 100.
Image source: Flickr