Centenarians Distinguished by DNA Signatures: On Second Try, Study Finds Genetic Basis for Longevity

By Saey, Tina Hesman | Science News, March 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

Centenarians Distinguished by DNA Signatures: On Second Try, Study Finds Genetic Basis for Longevity


Saey, Tina Hesman, Science News


People who live to be 100 often credit their aging success to particular dietary or lifestyle habits, religious faith or a generally positive outlook. But scientists have long believed extreme longevity is at least partly in the genes.

Now a group of researchers has identified 281 genetic variants that together distinguish people who live to be 105 or more from everyone else with about 85 percent accuracy.

Further analysis reveals several genetic signatures among centenarians, researchers led by Paola Sebastiani and Thomas Perls of Boston University report January 18 in the online journal PLoS ONE. While the findings are drawing some criticism, the results suggest that there is a genetic component to extreme longevity.

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Centenarians in the study have just as many disease-associated genetic variants as other people. So the researchers think that the inherited component probably includes versions of genes that protect against age-related diseases.

"What we have is a provocative set of findings that need to be replicated," Sebastiani says.

In an earlier version of the work that was published online in Science in 2010, she and the other Boston University researchers claimed to have found a set of 150 genetic variants that could correctly predict who would be a centenarian 77 percent of the time. But the paper soon came under fire for technical flaws. The researchers fixed the technical problem and engaged an independent lab at Yale University to analyze the data.

Despite those revisions, the paper was retracted from Science last year because the journal said the results no longer met standards for publication. Science's reasoning is disingenuous, says Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "The results, if anything, are stronger," he says. "The data are the data, and it's very striking. …

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