21 July 2008
Changing population demography, with an increase in the number of elderly people has led to an increased interest in identifying the factors which influence longevity and healthy aging. Past research into the genetic factors that influence longevity, identified a mutation which appears to be linked to a longer life span (see previous news). However, such mutations are rare, suggesting that other factors may also be involved. Studies have also revealed that many healthy elderly people do not develop conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, although they possess genes which increase their susceptibility to these conditions, suggesting the involvement of protective factors.
In order to gain a better understanding of the genetic factors which influence longevity, researchers at the Scripps Translational Science Institute in the US, plan to compare genes in 1000 healthy people aged 80 or over, who have never suffered serious illness and don’t take medication, with DNA from people who died from age-related diseases before they reached their 80s (reported by Technology Review). They will compare the sequences of one hundred genes which have been linked with health and ageing. Among them are genes involved in cellular housekeeping activities, DNA repair and cell growth. The hope is that sequence comparison of these genes will allow them to elucidate the molecular basis of the protective effect afforded by certain gene variants leading subsequently to the development of compounds that mimic this process in order to combat age-related illnesses.