Link between genetic variants and extreme old age confirmed

22 January 2012

Research showing a key role for specific genetic variants in extreme longevity has been published in the open access journal PLoS ONE; the original paper was retracted from Science last summer (see previous news).
The revised paper repeats the original data analysis, excluding some genetic variants included in the earlier study, with independent replication by additional authors. An additional set of genetic data from people with an average age of 107 is also used. Therefore, whilst the precise genetic signature associated with exceptional old age is not identical, the observation that some genetic variants can show association with unusually long life-spans seems to be valid.
Geriatrician and lead researcher Dr Thomas Perls commented: "This is a useful step towards meaningful predictive medicine and personal genomics", saying that further study of the genetic variants identified could shed light on their protective role against age-related diseases.
Comment: Importantly, these genes seem to be relevant not in living longer per se, but in long-term survival beyond the age of 85; however, as the number of people living beyond this age rises thanks to medical advances, this may become increasingly relevant.

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