Search for Longevity Gene


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From ABC News:
Built to Last
Scientists Narrow Search for Longevity Gene


Helen Faith Reichert smokes a half a pack a day, eats whatever she wants, and hardly exercises.
This fall, she will turn 100 years old

What is the secret to her longevity? A new study suggests it may be in the genes.
In a report published in Tuesday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists at Harvard University and Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center announce they have found the location of a gene, or genes, responsible for a long life.

Tom Perls, director of the study, sees the results as a new frontier in geriatrics.

"No one's ever looked at the genetics of exceptional longevity in humans," says Perls. "It's been done in lower organisms, but this is the first try at looking at humans."

The findings may seem to contradict conventional wisdom, but Reichert pooh-poohs the idea that a healthy, conservative lifestyle is the only path to long life.

"There is no formula," says Reichert, who lives in Wesport, Conn. "I don't think anybody who lives to be 100 sat down and wrote out a plan — 'I'll be a good girl, I'll make a lot of exercise, I'll eat a lot of vegetables, I'll go to bed regularly' — nothing like that. I did just the opposite."

All in the Family

Perls was inspired when, in the course of his research, he noticed that centenarians often had siblings who were similarly blessed with long lives.

This phenomenon certainly applies to Reichert, who has a 98-year-old sister and brothers aged 91 and 95. All four lead vigorous, active lives.

To find the common thread, the Boston researchers studied more than 130 families including Reichert's, comparing the DNA of sets of siblings who were older than 90 and had at least one member who was 98 or older.

From among tens of thousands of genes, they narrowed their search down to a region on Chromosome 4 that exhibited common elements across subjects. Somewhere in this section, they believe, lies the key to longevity.

"Within this region, which is still quite large, there may be anywhere between 100 and 500 genes," says Perls. "And one or two of those is probably playing an important role in the ability of these individuals to get to an extreme old age in good health."

Slowing Time

Scientists say the next step, perhaps within the next year, is to identify those one or two genes and learn how they extend life. One appealing theory is that the genes work by providing broad protection from disease.

The hope is that if scientists can isolate specific "longevity genes," they may be able to figure out what chemicals the genes produce, and capture their effects in a pill that would allow people to live longer, healthier lives.

The study is still searching for centenarian volunteers, who can contact them via the researchers Web site.
I wonder how much longer they might be able to extend their long lives if they didn't smoke, did exercise, and did consume better nutrition. I'd like to think that these activities do have real value and that long life just isn't a pure aspect of genetics.
It might be of interest that is the very thing suggested yesterday on CNN Headline News. That it was indeed genetics. That it may well be that there may only a few genes responcible for longevity instead of the many now thought to be the case.
If we can combine the effects of such gene therapies with the knowledge being obtained from telemere research then I think we are near to some superb breakthroughs in real anti-aging remedies.
From Newscientist on the smae take:

Genetic secret of long life pinned down

Scientists may be close to finding genes that determine how fast we age, a discovery that would begin the process of finding drugs that slow the ageing process, allowing a longer life.
Only a few people live to 100 or more, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the trait for longevity runs in families. To find out if specific genes predispose people to live to such extreme old age, Annibale Puca of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Boston recruited 137 sets of siblings where one was at least 98 years old and had a brother aged at least 91, or a sister aged at least 95.
Puca and his team carried out a type of genetic study called "linkage analysis", which reveals how likely it is that a region of the genome is associated with a particular trait.
"Linkage analysis gives a gene probability," says Puca. The researchers found a region on chromosome four associated with long life. "Chances are 95 per cent we are right and five per cent we are wrong [in picking this region]," Puca says.
"It's a technical tour de force," says Tom Johnson at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "No one has been able to do this in humans [before]."
"Discovery of what these genes code for will suggest interventions that might mimic genetic effects in a biochemical way," says Huber Warner, associate director of the biology of ageing programme at the US National Institute on Ageing in Maryland. "It could provide a biochemical way to manipulate health and lifespan."

Broad spectrum
Puca and his team think that variations in a gene or genes in the region affect the rate of ageing and hence our susceptibility to a whole range of diseases. Other genes such as APOE have already been shown to affect lifespan (Nature Genetics, vol 6, p 29), but they seem to do so because by determining susceptibility to a single disease, such as Alzheimer's.
Furthermore, previous studies have been done by looking at the effect on ageing of known genes suspected of playing a role. Puca's study, in contrast, is the first to pick out from the entire genome the most important gene or genes linked to longevity. "It could be a 'slow ageing' gene," he suggests.
"I'm surprised to find a single gene region with this much effect," says Warner. "It must be a really basic process that affects a lot of different basic systems - some universal, general process."
"The importance of [Puca's] study is that it points to a particular region of a particular chromosome that appears to have a strong bearing on the rate of ageing," agrees James Carey of the University of California, Davis. "The next steps must involve independent verification, then narrowing down to a small subset of genes if possible, and most importantly identifying the mechanism."
Whether this will enable us to develop ways of slowing ageing depends on what we find, Puca says. "Some genes and pathways are harder to modify than others." His team hopes to isolate the gene or genes within six months
Yes I saw that reference to 6 months etc on the TV earlier, that really is a short timeframe.

I hope that this sparks off more research in the same area from other institutions around the world.
I've been taking melatonin regularly for some years after that was described as a breakthrough in anti-aging. I have to admit that I haven't reviewed any more recent findings on that.
I have no doubt that the studies will be increasing. Prehaps we will yet see some benefit within our lifetime. Let us hope so....
Yup I hope so too.

I think we are similar ages so I suspect you also see these developments as needing to grow rapidly if we are to take benefit from them within, say the next 30 years. It is going to be very close my friend.
With the speed that drug test verification takes I am afraid that it probably be just outside our effective age range.
Perhaps, in which case we must make every effort and use every technique available to extend our lives in the more conventional sense for as long as possible, e.g. good nutrtion, exercise, physical fitness, minimal stress, etc.
I do believe that will leave me out. I enjoy the pleasures to much too simply say now I will lead a spartian type life style.

Hey, be who you are. That should be encouragement enough.
Thanks, but I'll just have to do my own thing, again, I guess.
"It's my thing, Do what you want to do...." from a song that I don't remember the title to. But it seemed so right for this.