Do Genes Affect Lifespan?

It’s a conclusion that’s hard to argue with, and one that’s taken without much pushback: individuals who live to be 100 years of age or older must have good genes. Now, Italian scientists have confirmed that this is the case.

“The 105 threshold is really tough to jump and those who surpass it are really super athletes in terms of aging,” according to Paolo Garagnani, PhD, associate professor of general pathology at the University of Bologna.

In addition to living an extended lifespan, these elders–termed “super centenarians” by the scientists–are often able to avoid the long periods of illness that can plague the end of an elder’s life.

Curious to know how these individuals live so long, Garagnani and his team searched in Italy for those aged 105 or greater. Italy was ideal for Garagnani’s research because Italy’s life expectancy is one of the longest in the world. Additionally, the regional Catholic Church has kept extensive records of baptisms, which helped the researchers confirm the ages of the participants.

Garagnani’s team took blood samples from 81 participants and then conducted whole-genome sequencing to look for differences between the super centenarians and younger generations. They concluded that those who live past 100 have a genetic makeup that makes their bodies very efficient at repairing DNA. They were also at a lower risk for cancer,┬áheart attack, and┬ástroke.

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