Scientists are still searching for a key piece of the longevity puzzle,
having not found anything remarkable in the genes of 'supercentenarians' - people who live beyond 110 - to explain their long lives.
The study, conducted by scientists at Stanford University in the USA, sequenced the genomes of 17 people in this elite group. The results were compared with whole genome data
from 4,300 'normal' people. In their final analysis the researchers conclude
that it is 'extremely unlikely' that any one genetic variant could account for the
subjects' remarkable longevity.
'We were looking for a really simple explanation in a single gene,' confirmed Professor Stuart Kim, who led the study. 'We
know now that it's a lot more complicated, and it will take a lot more
experiments and a lot more data from the genes of more supercentenarians to
find out just what might account for their ages.'
But the study group's varied lifestyles mean that the researchers
remain convinced the answer does lie in genetics and not environment. The group's
smoking, alcohol, exercise and diet habits appear to be in-line with the
general population. Furthermore, the immediate families of the supercentenarians lived well
beyond average life expectancy - although this does not rule out environmental
The study did note average rates of cancer, heart disease, and stroke
in the group, 16 of which were women. Only one, an Alzheimer's patient, had any
signs of a major age-related disease.
'These supercentenarians have a different clock where they are staying
really highly functional for a long time', Professor Kim told Reuters.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.