Thursday, July 1, 2010

genetic variations, the key to elixir of life?

    Mortality is in the genes!

Whether you're going to celebrate your birth-centenary breathing well, or stop at 85, panting heavily depends, at least partially on your genetic signature - says a new study conducted by a team led by Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts.
They have shown that a cluster of 150 variations in DNA sequence can be used to predict — with 77% accuracy — whether a person has the genetic wherewithal to live to 100 years old; this after rigorous trekking through the genomes of more than 1,000 centenarians, scoring about 300,000 sequence variations for possible links to exceptionally long lifespans.
The scientific information that emerged was that a complex mix of genetic variants, potentially affecting everything from endocrine-system mediated bone metabolism to stress responses and brain-cell function was associated with its regulation. Some of the discovered variants could play a potential role in staving off debilitating age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's and the notoriously-ubiquitous cardiovascular diseases.
This complexity of regulation of life-span involving several systems, seems perfectly logical as the search for single 'messiah'-genes with big effects on longevity, has not proven fruitful.
For long, and with good reason, longevity was known to be primarily a matter of environment and genetics is thought to contribute to only about 25-30% of the variation in survival to 85 years of age. As it turns out, in order to live beyond the 85's, you can as well, hold your folks responsible!

A vital-key to longer life-span may be postponing age-related illnesses, and 90% of centenarians remain disability-free into their early 90s, says Perls. They categorized 90% of the centenarians into 19 groups based on the pattern of genetic variations they had, which correlated with patterns in the frequency and age of onset of debilitating diseases such as dementia and high blood pressure. Of course, the science here, does not address instances where larger and more diverse populations, are involved, but if true, the researchers suggest that the key factor for achieving extreme longevity is not a lack of genetic variants that predispose a person to disease, but rather the enrichment of longevity-associated variants that perhaps resist and overcome disease-associated risks.

A potential for misuse, of course is with greedy corporate Pharma/genetic testing -giants who could peddle the information for changes/corrections in the genetic make-up of an individual as an elixir of life.....and the sunny side could be that people can get a screening done before buying life-insurance!

* Genetic Signatures of Exceptional Longevity in Humans
   Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1190532

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