Researchers Believe Genes May Hold the Key to Longevity
September 7th, 2010
Recent research carried out by the Boston Medical Centre, University of Boston, shed new light on the role genetics play in the aging process. The study, entitled the “New England Centenarian Study,” is the largest study of people who have reached the age of 100, and includes data from as far back as 1995.
It was found that 77% of the 1000 participants possessed 150 genetic variants in common, so-called ‘longevity genes’. From this research it may be concluded that the presence of these genes in individuals could possibly indicate an increased potential to live to the age of 100.
Environmental Influences also Play a Significant Part in Lifespan
Simply possessing these genes does not insure you are going to live a long, fruitful life. Environmental factors play a huge role in determining ones life expectancy. Factors such as smoking, becoming overweight, and diet will all play a part in determining how long a person will live – which are the same factors life insurance companies have to take into account when assessing a person’s insurance premiums. It is also worth noting that although it seems 77% of people made it to the age of 100 with genetic factors helping them, 23% did it without.
‘Longevity’ Genes may Suppress Harmful ‘Aging’ Genes
Exactly what part these genes play in increasing lifespan is not entirely known. Previously it was thought some people lived longer because they lacked some of the harmful genes which hasten the onset of aging diseases; this new research tells us that in fact longer-lived people possess all the harmful genes, along with the 150 newly identified ones.
This would seem to indicate that ‘longevity genes’ have an ability to suppress harmful genes, somehow limiting their power to trigger aging illnesses in individuals. It was also discovered that in 90% of the centenarians studied none suffered from any typical age-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, until after the age of 93.
Implications for Medicine and Life Insurance
This study has big implications for preventative medicine in the area of aging related disease. It is hoped that further research will be extended in order to focus on different nationalities including the Japanese, believed to have the longest life expectancies of people on the planet. This type of research will also be of great interest to life insurance companies – access to this type of new genetic information might give life insurers a more informed way of assessing risk; knowing that potential life insurance customers have genes which make them likely to live to 100 might reduce life insurance premiums for them since a payout on their life insurance might be a long way off.
Better rates on life insurance would be great – but being told you possess ‘longevity genes’ can’t really be topped.