Friday, December 18, 2009

Mutant genes 'key to long life'

BBC NEWS | Health | Mutant genes 'key to long life': "There is a clear link between living to 100 and inheriting a hyperactive version of an enzyme that prevents cells from ageing, researchers say. Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US say centenarian Ashkenazi Jews have this mutant gene. They found that 86 very old people and their children had higher levels of telomerase which protects the DNA. They say it may be possible to produce drugs that stimulate the enzyme...The team at Einstein found that the centenarians and their offspring had higher levels of telomerase and significantly longer telomeres than the unrelated people in the control group and that the trait was strongly heritable... The scientists had previously shown that individuals in Ashkenazi families with exceptional longevity have generally been spared major age-related diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. The centenarians in this study had a lower average body mass index than the controls and higher levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. Yousin Suh, associate professor of medicine and genetics at Einstein and a lead author on the paper, said: "Our findings suggest that telomere length and variants of telomerase genes combine to help people live very long lives, perhaps by protecting them from the diseases of old age... "

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