Science discovered a species of age barrier in which genetics becomes more important than quality of life in the aging process. According to US research in gerontology, as of the age of 110, when a person takes on the title of supercentenarian, the triggers responsible for aging change. Those who live longer have “special” genetics, and not necessarily healthier habits.
In 2012, genetic signatures were identified that seem to predict an extremely long life. “What that tells us is that genes are playing a stronger and stronger role in the variation of how old people live to be at these most extreme ages,” says Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study, in Boston.
According to him, about 20% of living to 85 or 90 is genetic, but when you reach the 110-year barrier, genetics plays a stronger role than habits.
In analyzing the genome of 17 supercentenarians, the group of Michael Greicius, associate professor at Stanford School of Medicine, did not find any single gene or single gene variant that could be credited with providing their subjects with such long lives. Rather, they identified a winning combination of genes that protect them against most or all age-related diseases. “It’s not just the luck of the draw on one card, but you have to have eight or nine lucky draws,” Greicius says.
In other words, supercentenarians could hold the key to treatments for diseases that kill the rest of us, such as heart disease and stroke – responsible for about one quarter of the world’s deaths, according to the World Health Organization. According to Greicius: “supercentenarians hide a genetic treasure.”
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