Scouring Sequences for the Fountain of Youth

"EVERY man desires to live long; but no man would be old," wrote Jonathan Swift. In the quest to live life long and well, people have consumed everything from turtle soup to owl meat to gladiator's blood. Russian French microbiologist Ilya Mechnikov thought a human could live for 150 years on a steady diet of milk cultured with bacteria (he died at 71). While the Internet offers a wide variety of products for fountain-of-youth seekers, some researchers have turned their attention to the genes (s

Ricki Lewis
Apr 25, 2004
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"EVERY man desires to live long; but no man would be old," wrote Jonathan Swift. In the quest to live life long and well, people have consumed everything from turtle soup to owl meat to gladiator's blood. Russian French microbiologist Ilya Mechnikov thought a human could live for 150 years on a steady diet of milk cultured with bacteria (he died at 71). While the Internet offers a wide variety of products for fountain-of-youth seekers, some researchers have turned their attention to the genes (see story, p. 34).

GENES PLAY A LARGER ROLE IN MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY

Protective Genes

FOXO (forkhead box) – transcription factors controlling apoptosis and response to oxidative stressCETP (cholesteryl ester transfer protein) – mutation common in centenarians; enlarges HDL and LDL particlesMTP (microsomal transfer protein) – controls the rate of lipoprotein synthesisAPO E (apolipoprotein E) – centenarians lack allele...

ENVIRONMENT PLAYS A LARGER ROLE IN MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY

Common Disorders:

• Alzheimer disease• Cancers• Cardiovascular disease• Diabetes mellitus• Hypertension

SINGLE GENES PLAY A LARGE ROLE IN MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY

Single Gene Disorders:

(0–10 years)• Cystic fibrosis• Duchenne muscular dystrophy• Familial hypercholesterolemia (homozygote)• Hemophilia• Phenylketonuria• Sickle cell disease

(10–20 years)• Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy• Wilson disease

(20–30 years)• Marfan syndrome• Multiple endocrine neoplasia

(30–40 years)• Breast cancer• Familial hypercholesterolemia (heterozygote)• Hemochromatosis• Polycystic kidney disease

(~40 years)• Huntington disease

Article Extras

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THE LIMITS ON LIFE EXPECTANCY

The longest lived and healthiest people are the Japanese, with an average life expectancy of 81.8 years. Sub-Saharan African populations have the lowest life expectancy, near 40 in many countries, due to HIV. Jeanne Calment (pictured far right), who died at 122 in 1997, holds the record as the oldest person. One in 10,000 people in developed nations is a centenarian, over the age of 100, and 90% of these are women. Some researchers believe that by studying the genetics of centenarians, they will discover the secret to long life.