New genes that help people live into their 100s have been discovered after researchers examined the genomes of centenarians, a new study suggests.
Researchers found four of these genes using a new technique. They are: the CDKN2B gene that plays a role in cell division, the APOE (Apolipoprotein E) gene which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease, the SH2B3 gene which is known to extend the life of fruit flies, and the ABO gene that plays a role in determining the blood type of an individual.
Stuart Kim, a professor in the Department of Developmental Biology and Genetics at Sanford University who was involved in the new study, said that there is a genetic component that leads to some people ageing more successfully than others.
In the new study – published December 17 in the journal PLOS Genetics – the researchers looked at genes that are known to increase a person’s risk of diseases that come with age, such as Alzheimer’s disease or heart disease. Some genetic variants increase the risk of these diseases, and, at the same time, decrease a person’s chance to have a longer life.
At first, the researchers looked for genes linked to longevity in 5,400 people over the age of 90 and 600 people over the age of 100. They found eight of these genes, and in a follow-up study in which they analysed the genes of 1,000 people over the age of 100, the researchers confirmed four of the eight genes.
The CDKN2B, APOE, SH2B3, and ABO genes were more prevalent in people with a longer life spans (like centenarians), compared with individuals with more common life spans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that in the United States the average life expectancy is approximately 79 years.
The findings show that type O blood was more common in people with a longer life span. Individuals with type O blood are known to have a lower risk of cancer and of coronary heart disease, as well as lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
The CDKN2B gene, which regulates cell division, was also more prevalent in centenarians. Cellular senescence, which is part of senescence or biological aging, occurs when normal diploid cells cease to divide. According to Kim, a gene that reduces cell senescence may lead to successful aging.
Further research could find other longevity-linked genes that help people live longer, Kim said.
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