It seems like that the secret to living a long and healthy life is not found in the Fountain of Youth but in the genes.
A remarkable new study has pointed out that certain gene variants-or the lack of them-could spell the difference between living to be a hundred or die earlier. They discovered that centenerians, or those that get to live for at least 80 years, tend to have missing gene variants that make them less susceptible to age-related mortality risk.
The study with Kim Stuart, Stanford University genetics and developmental biology professor, and Kristen Fortney aimed to improve gene comparison between those who lived long and the general population. Based on a previous model, he developed a modified one called iGWAS, which focused on finding genes that affect 14 of the most common types of diseases including heart disease.
After analyzing the new data using the iGWAS model, the team discovered a new gene variant that may possibly increase the risk of motor neuron disease such as atrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is a progressive degenerative disease with no known cure yet. Interestingly, the same variant can help increase the survival of fruit flies.
They also found out familiar genes, including APOE, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Centenarians tend to have this missing gene, which means their risk of developing the degenerative brain-related disease is very low. Further, the team discovered a genetic variant that is related to the increased risk of heart disease. Such variant helps regulate the lifespan of certain cells. Other variants are related to autoimmunity and cell signaling.
The genetic study is significant since it's been presumed that more than lifestyle and environment, centenarians are able to live very long because they possess anti-aging secrets in their genes. This research pointed out that the main reason could be very simple: their gene variants may be making them less susceptible to being sick.
The study is now available in PLOS Genetics.