DNA may predict who lives to 100
WASHINGTON — The oldest among us seem to have chosen their parents well. Researchers closing in on the impact of family versus lifestyle find most people who live to 100 or older share some helpful genes.
But don’t give up on diet and exercise just yet.
In an early step to understanding the pathways that lead to surviving into old age, a study this week in the journal Science found that most centenarians had a number of genetic variations in common.
That doesn’t mean there’s a quick test to determine who will live long and who won’t; a healthy lifestyle and other factors are also significant, noted the team led by Paola Sebastiani and Thomas Perls of Boston University.
Nevertheless, Perls said the research might point the way to determining who will be vulnerable to specific diseases sooner, and there might be a possibility, down the road, to help guide therapy for them.
The team looked at the genomes of 1,055 Caucasians born between 1890 and 1910 and compared them with 1,267 people born later.
By studying genetic markers, the researchers were able to predict with 77 percent accuracy which came from people over 100.
“Seventy-seven percent is very high accuracy for a genetic model,” said Sebastiani. “But 23 percent error rate also shows there is a lot that remains to be discovered.”
The large number of genetic variations identified by the study presents a daunting challenge in trying to identify the specific genes and their function, several researchers said.
“The good news is you can identify genetic loci they think may be linked to longevity. The bad news is there are 150 of them that may contribute a tiny, tiny bit,” said Leonard Guarente, who studies the genetics of aging at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.