According to a study published in eLife, people who live for more than 105 years tend to have a unique genetic background.
Scientists have deciphered the genomes of people with “extreme longevity” for the first time in unprecedented detail. According to the authors of the new study, this explains why some members of humanity live more than 105 years and have managed to avoid age-related diseases.
“Aging is a common risk factor for several chronic diseases and conditions,” explains Paolo Garanani, assistant professor of experimental and diagnostic medicine at the University of Bologna, Italy, and the first author of the study. “We decided to study the genetics of a group of people who lived over 105 years old and compare them with a group of young people from the same region of Italy.”
In a cohort over a century old, five specific genetic changes were typically identified, centered around two genes, STK17A and COA1.
STK17A is involved in the response to DNA damage. As you know, with age, the mechanisms for the restoration of macromolecules in the body become less and less effective. Accumulated DNA damage is known to be responsible for some of the signs of aging. That is why the increased expression of STK17A promotes healthy aging, preserving the processes of deoxyribonucleic acid recovery in old age.
A decrease in COA1 expression was also found in the elderly. In turn, this gene plays a role in communication between the cell nucleus and mitochondria.
The researchers also found that extra-long-lived individuals had unexpectedly low levels of somatic gene mutations. They usually accumulate as they get older. It remains unclear why older adults avoided the age-related exponential growth commonly seen with such mutations.