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Gene variants may be linked with longevity: study

07-02-2010 10:48 BJT

LOS ANGELES, July 1 (Xinhua) -- There may be a link between gene variants and longevity, a new study suggests.

U.S. researchers said they have grouped together a series of genetic variants that can predict with 77 percent accuracy whether or not a person will live to 100 years of age.

The researchers conducted a genome-wide association study in 1, 055 centenarians and 1,267 controls participating in the New England Centenarian Study. From this, a genetic model that included 150 single nucleotide polymorphisms, or genetic variants, was able to predict with 77 percent accuracy how long a person was going to live.

"That's very high accuracy for a genetic model, which means that the traits that we're looking at have a very strong genetic basis," said study lead author Paola Sebastiani, a professor of biostatistics at Boston University School of Public Health.

The other 23 percent could be accounted for by environmental and lifestyle factors or genetic factors that simply are unknown at this point, Perls said.

The researchers also found 19 different genetic "signatures" in 90 percent of centenarians which correlated with "different patterns of exceptional longevity," said senior study author Dr. Thomas Perls, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center.

For example, some signatures correlated with the longest survival, and others with the most delayed onset of age-related illnesses, such as dementia or cardiovascular disease.

Surprisingly, "what seems to make people live very long lives is not a lack of genetic predisposition to diseases but an enrichment of longevity-associated variants that may counter the effects of disease-associated variants," said Sebastiani.

However, having bad genes doesn't mean you don't have other good genes that would trump them as 23 percent of people who didn' t have one of these genetic signatures went on to live to 100, Perls said.

"I think a lot of study needs to be done as to what guidance physicians and health-care providers can give to individuals as to what they do with this information," Perls said. In particular, there could be implications from an insurance point of view. The study was published in the July issue of Science.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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