Spanish longevity genes linked to cholesterol metabolism

Hold the butter! The genetic secrets of centenarians are starting to be unravelled – and they hint that low cholesterol plays a role in their unusual longevity.

“This is one of the first studies to detect rare genotypes in these exceptional individuals,” says João Pedro de Magalhães of the University of Liverpool, UK, who was not involved in the research.

It is thought that genetics accounts for up to 30 per cent of the variability in human lifespan. But so far just two genes have been linked to longevity, and neither has a large influence – creating a genetic puzzle sometimes called “missing heritability”.

To look for unknown rare mutations, Timothy Cash of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid and his colleagues sequenced the entire exome – the protein-coding part of DNA – of three Spanish centenarians and four of their long-lived siblings. These were compared with the exomes of 800 people, many of whom could be assumed to have average lifespans, as only one in 5,000 people live to 100.

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One gene – apolipoprotein B – had rare mutations in all three long-lived families that were less common in the 800 controls. The protein made by this gene helps carry “bad cholesterol” in the blood, high levels of which lead to heart attacks. It is possible that the mutations reduce levels of this bad cholesterol.

Read the full, original story: Gene variant found that may help people live to be 100

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