Scientists discover what makes us live longer

New test unlocks secrets of life expectancy by predicting which of us will reach 100 By Steve Connor, Science Editor Friday, 2 July 2010 A genetic test has been developed that can predict whether someone is likely to live an extremely long life, but scientists have warned that society is still not ready for such predictions. The test is based on a scan of a person's entire genome; so far it can predict whether someone is likely to live to 100 with an accuracy of 77 per cent. However, refinements to the test will improve its precision, raising the prospect that it could one day be used to predict whether someone is genetically predisposed to extreme longevity. Commercial organisations are likely to market the test within a few years. But the scientists behind the research warn that there should be a public debate on the ethical implications behind such testing.

Related articles
y y y

Professor Tom Kirkwood: There are limits to our powers of prediction AC Grayling: Will this step towards a longer life create yet another divide in our society? Search the news archive for more stories

Researchers developed the test by analysing the genomes of 1,055 centenarians from different parts of the world and comparing slight variations in their DNA with the genetic makeup of a set of people younger than 100. The scientists found that by concentrating on just 150 individual mutations in the human genome, they could predict with 77 per cent accuracy whether someone belonged to the group of centenarians. Although the test is still at a rudimentary stage, scientists said that they could foresee it being developed commercially within a few years to identify people with an inherited predisposition to live a long life that is likely, until the final years, to be largely free of age-related disorders such as cancer and heart disease. Thomas Perls of the Boston University School of Medicine, who led the study published in the journal Science, said the aim of the research was to understand the genetic reasons why some people live longer than others despite having similar lifestyles. "We embarked on the study to understand the genetics of exceptional longevity," Professor Perls said. "Clearly we realise that this is a very complex genetic puzzle. Exceptional longevity is not the vacuous entity that some people make it out to be. This really opens the door to understanding the genetic and lifestyle determinants of longevity." Professor Perls said that a predictive accuracy of 77 per cent is "fairly unprecedented" and there is nothing to stop biotechnology companies from using this information, which is now freely available in the public domain, to develop commercial tests for extreme longevity. But he warned: "I for one don't think we're ready from a social point of view, but I think that won't stop companies from trying to market this." The scientists found that 90 per cent of the centenarians in the study possessed a definite "genetic signature" of extreme longevity, denoted by the particular combination of genetic mutations they carried. The researchers

it is now possible for scientists to scan the entire DNA of a person to identify the many different inherited traits that may be linked with a particular condition. including Alzheimer's disease. as well as in the tailored uses of medications. and although it may improve with better knowledge of the variations in the human genome. The search of similar "ageing genes" in humans." . In 2008. also contribute in important ways to the ability of humans to survive to very old ages. its limitations confirm that environmental factors. But following the completion of the mapping of the human genome. Parkinson's. The team concluded: "This prediction is not perfect. has had limited success. or extreme longevity. said: "The methodology we developed can be applied to other complex genetic traits. however. whether it is an age-related illness such as coronary heart disease or cancer. though a healthy lifestyle is also important. scientists managed to extend the life of yeast cells tenfold by altering their genetic make-up and putting them on a calorie-restricted diet. cardiovascular disease and diabetes. from simple yeast cells to laboratory strains of mice." Extreme longevity is known to have a strong genetic component as it tends to run in families. Paola Sebastiani. Professor Perls said: "These genetic signatures are a new advance towards personalised genomics and predictive medicine. which is widely observed to increase longevity across the animal kingdom.also found that 45 per cent of the oldest centenarians ± those over the age of 110 ± had a genetic signature with the highest proportion of longevity-associated mutations. where this analytic method may prove to be generally useful in prevention and screening of numerous diseases. for example lifestyle." Scientists have tried for decades to find the genetic basis of human longevity by investigating the genes that influence ageing in a range of lifeforms. who worked with Professor Perls on the study.

Members around the world engage in a variety of character-building and motivational programs for children. protection. and recreation. emotional. computer training for the handicapped. Our profound respect for children²and attention to their proper care and upbringing²is an integral part of our lives. please see our Worldwide Work page. We consider the care of the little ones God entrusts into our care to be a very important responsibility. . material and humanitarian aid. and spiritual needs of children should be amply and competently met. programs in juvenile detention centers. We strive to bring our children up "in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). We consider that it is the God-given responsibility of every Christian parent to impart to their children a deep appreciation. assistance in building schools in depressed areas. respect. We also believe that the marriage union of man and woman is the ideal relationship for the parenting of children and the forming of stable families. and as such. it is our conviction that the physical. and character-building programs. (For more details. socialization. education. and the sacred principles contained in it. motivational. One of the highest priorities of the Family International is to ensure that our members¶ children receive a high standard of care.Pediatric Cancer Ward Children: The Hope of the Future We believe that children are priceless treasures and gifts from God. and also conduct child-rearing and parenting seminars for parents and educators. but we also strive to better the quality of life of all children. Educational and Child-rearing Programs The Family International is not only committed to the care and well-being of our members¶ children. psychological. These programs include educational.) Assistance to Disadvantaged Children Family members also engage in a variety of programs around the world aimed at assisting disadvantaged children and providing them an opportunity to rise above their circumstances. and love for God and His Word.

many choose other lifestyles and opt for secular careers rather than that of a missionary. We aim to provide our children with a multifaceted education. which includes a full range of academic subjects. they are free to pursue the career of their choice. Character-building. as they reach adulthood. including registered homeschooling curricula. . Coming of Age Children of Family members raised in missionary communities are taught their parents' religious beliefs. As the children come of age. which prepares them for the future career of their choosing. Members strive to provide their children with positive. The Family International has specialized in early childhood education. However. books. It is our hope that our children will grow up to serve God and others. Character-building Products The Family International produces a variety of devotional and educational publications. decision-making. home-study learning environments that encourage each child to discover and develop his or her unique gifts. Homeschooling has been a preferred method of education of full-time Family members for the past 30 years. and computer programs. problem-solving. The children¶s scholastic curricula combine a variety of teaching aids. for children. physical and social skills. medical assistance and health programs. Christian books. videos. The Family International upholds the right of young adults to self-determination. and communication are also a significant part of their education. and teaching aids for this level of education. (See our character-building products. Our sincere desire is that all children raised in our communities will go on to lead fulfilling lives and progress in the new goals they set for themselves.) Education Family parents and communities are responsible to ensure that each child receives a proper education. practical vocational training. videos. and has produced a numerous in-house publications.programs in orphanages. and abilities. and participate at times in their parents' mission work. talents. as well as audio and video materials. We believe that every child deserves an opportunity for a bright future. These present character-building lessons in ways that appeal to children. Christian and ministerial instruction.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful