Scientists have identified several genetic variants linked to living a long life. The right 'suite' of so-called 'Methuselah' genes could offset the ill effects of smoking, drinking and poor diet, the new research shows.
The scientists found the genes - carried by one in 10,000 people - could prevent illnesses such as cancer and heart disease or at least delay them for up to three decades, according to The Times.
The 'Methuselah' genes include ADIPOQ, which is found in about 10% of young people, but in nearly 30% of people living past 100. Additionally, the CETP gene and the ApoC3 gene are found in 10% of young people, but in about 20% of centenarians.
Professor Nir Barzilai discovered some of these genes while analysing the genome of over 500 centenarians and their offspring. He said that the discovery gave scientists clear targets for developing drugs with potential to prevent or delay the onset of age-related diseases, making it possible to lengthen people's lives and keep them healthier for longer.
A separate study in which researchers are investigating 3,500 Dutch people over the age of 90, showed how the physiology of people in long-lived families differs from normal people. Eline Slagboom, leader of this study, said: 'People who live to be a great age metabolise fat and glucose differently, their skin ages more slowly and they have lower prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension'.
She added: 'Long-lived people do not have fewer disease genes or ageing genes...Instead they have other genes that stop those disease genes from being switched on. Longevity is strongly genetic and inherited'.
Longevity researcher Dr David Gems of University College London, believes that treatments to slow ageing will become widespread: 'Much of the pain and suffering in the world are caused by ageing. If we can find a way to reduce that, then we are morally obliged to take it', he said
Drug companies are already targeting the CETP gene to help prevent heart disease. The US drug maker Merck & Co, for example, has a CETP drug in late-stage clinical trials to test its effectiveness in raising good cholesterol, according to Toronto News.