Thursday, July 01, 2010

Genetics of Longevity

The latest issue of Science has this important study on the importance of genetics for healthy aging. Here is the abstract:

Healthy aging is thought to reflect the combined influence of environmental factors (lifestyle choices) and genetic factors. To explore the genetic contribution, we undertook a genome-wide association study of exceptional longevity (EL) in 1055 centenarians and 1267 controls. Using these data, we built a genetic model that includes 150 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and found that it could predict EL with 77% accuracy in an independent set of centenarians and controls. Further in silico analysis revealed that 90% of centenarians can be grouped into 19 clusters characterized by different combinations of SNP genotypes—or genetic signatures—of varying predictive value. The different signatures, which attest to the genetic complexity of EL, correlated with differences in the prevalence and age of onset of age-associated diseases (e.g., dementia, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease) and may help dissect this complex phenotype into subphenotypes of healthy aging.

CNN has the scoop here. A sample:

If celebrating triple-digit birthdays sounds appealing, scientists may be able to determine if you're likely to live that long.

Researchers from the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the Boston Medical Center have identified genes associated with living longer. They also predicted using genetics alone many of those among study participants would be a centenarian. Their results will be published in the journal Science.

"Could these signatures tell a physician and their patient who's going to be at increased risk for a particular disease sooner, and can this lead perhaps to interventions that might help them? I think that's a possibility down the road," said co-author Dr. Thomas Perls of Boston Medical Center, in a press conference.

....Using their genetic model, researchers found they could predict with 77 percent accuracy who would live to be 100 or higher based on genetics alone in the sample.

"This is very important information that should make anybody aware that if we are going to find genes that are protecting us from aging, it is not an impossible mission," said Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, who was not involved in the study.