17 new genetic variants linked to a longer lifespan discovered
A massive new international study hasmore than tripled the number of genetic variants associated with alonger lifespan. The study, which looked at genetic correlations amongpeople with long-living parents, found distinct new geneticcharacteristics connected to lifespan, while also unexpectedly revealing potential gender-specific genetic pathways to a longer life.
There are, of course, a huge variety offactors that determine how long a person lives. Environment andlifestyle play major roles in affecting a person'slifespan, but genetic heritability is also relevant. Studies of twinshave estimated the role of genetics to be between 20 and 30 percentin determining a person's lifespan.
Prior studies into what specificgenetic variants could be associated with longer lifespans have unsurprisingly identified a link to genes associated with heart disease anddementia. This new study took a novel approach and concentrated onfinding genetic associations in those subjects with a family history of longer lifespans.
The study incorporated a massivedataset of 389,166 subjects, and not only confirmed the association ofeight previously identified genetic variants that have been linked tolifespan, but also revealed 17 new variants, bringing the total number to25.
"We have identified new pathways thatcontribute to survival, as well as confirming others," says studyauthor Luke Pilling. "These targets offer potentially modifiabletargets to reduce risk of an earlier death and improve health."
The new genetic variants discovered by the study play a variety of roles, including affecting auto-immune disease and high bloodpressure. But perhaps the most interesting discovery related to possible gender-specific longevity genes. Three novelgenetic variants were associated with longer living mothers in thestudy, while eight novel variants were associated with fathers. Thisunexpected gender-specific revelation is certainly an area deservingof more study and suggests there is potential for the development of different lifespan-extending gene therapy treatments for men and women.
The study quite rightly concludes thathuman lifespan is most certainly a polygenetic trait, with no singlemagic aging gene existing to help extend a person's life. This doesn't mean the searchfor genes connected to lifespan is a vain one though, but rather thisbody of accumulating data will help further the quest for gene therapies that can improve our quality of life well into our senioryears.
The study was published in the journalAging.
Source: University of Connecticut