Unlocking the Secrets of Longevity through Genetic Variants

Unlocking the Secrets of Longevity through Genetic Variants

In a groundbreaking study conducted by scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), 11 diverse polygenic longevity scores (PLS) have been formulated using data from four studies that link genetic variants to lifespan. These scores have the remarkable ability to not only predict long life but also denote resistance to certain age-related ailments including Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.

Leading the research efforts, Dr. Janith Don and Dr. Nicholas Schork, alongside their team, analyzed genome data extracted from the UK BioBank database which comprises approximately 480,000 individuals from the United Kingdom aged between 40 and 69. Upon publication of their findings in GeroScience, the researchers established a strong correlation between the PLS and the lifespan of the parents of the subjects included in the BioBank study. Individuals with higher PLS were found to have an average lifespan extension ranging between 0.31 to 1.98 years compared to those with lower scores.

Moreover, the study revealed a fascinating link between PLS and susceptibility to non-cancerous illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease, heart attack, diabetes, and even COVID-19. Notably, individuals with higher PLS exhibited reduced risks of contracting these diseases. Conversely, the PLS did not predict resilience to any form of cancer, a finding attributed to the stochastic nature of cancer rather than genetic makeup according to Dr. Schork, Deputy Director of TGen.

Traditionally, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have focused on identifying genetic variants associated with specific diseases. This has led to the development of polygenic risk scores (PRS) that quantify the collective risk of disease-related genetic variants. In a remarkable departure from convention, the TGen researchers opted to devise scores that encapsulate the “risk” of longevity based on GWAS exploring genetic markers linked to lifespan.

The four GWAS on which the 11 PLS are based do not share identical genetic variants, though there is some overlap. Dr. Don, a postdoctoral fellow at TGen, emphasized that the definition of “long-lived” individuals in these studies ranged from nonagenarians to “super-centenarians” above the age of 100. Despite this variety in longevity definitions, the PLS were found to strongly align with the data from the BioBank study, indicating their robustness and reliability in reflecting health and lifespan.

Moving forward, Dr. Schork, Dr. Don, and their team are delving deeper into the genetic components constituting the PLS to elucidate their protective mechanisms against various diseases. By examining these genetic variants more closely, the researchers aim to uncover the underlying mechanisms that contribute to longevity and overall well-being in individuals with high PLS.

The development of polygenic longevity scores represents a significant milestone in genetic research, offering valuable insights into the determinants of long life and disease resilience. This groundbreaking study paves the way for future investigations into the genetic factors influencing lifespan and opens up new avenues for personalized medicine and preventive healthcare strategies.


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