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Scientists Spot Gene Variants That Predict Longevity
Date:7/1/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have grouped together a series of genetic variants that can predict with 77 percent accuracy whether or not a person will live to 100 years of age.

Although experts and others probably could have predicted life span with even greater accuracy had they asked people how long their parents had lived, said Dr. Robert Marion, chief of genetics and development medicine and director of the Center for Congenital Disorders at Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, that method would not pave the way for advances in science, as this study likely does.

"Right now, this is kind of like a party trick but eventually, if you can identify early in life those individuals who have a predisposition to living longer and those who are destined to die young, you might actually be able to come up with some interventions for those who are going to die young and allow them to live longer," Marion said. "One of the big benefits of the new genomic medicine is that we're going to be able to do personalized medicine, and this is one way to approach that."

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, appears in the July 2 issue of Science.

Right now, people in industrialized nations live an average of 80 to 85 years.

About one in 6,000 people in these parts of the world achieves centenarian status. Supercentenarians -- those who live to 110 or beyond -- occur at a rate of only about one in 7 million.

"We have about 80,000 centenarians alive at any time," said senior study author Dr. Thomas Perls. "The oldest person right now is about 116, in Japan." And the majority of people living to 100 and beyond are women.

"Centenarians are indeed a model of aging," said Perls, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine an
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