Take the Genetic Test for Longevity

What if there was a simple spit test you could do that would predict how long you are likely to live? Would you want to know?

Having this kind of test may be closer than we think. A study done by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine was justpublished in Science to show 33 SNPs that are associated with exceptional longevity.

Let’s back up a bit and look at what the researchers did. They took a sample of 1055 centenarians and a group of 1267 non-centenarian controls, and basically compared their entire genomes in a genome-wide association study (GWAS). They found 150 places where centenarians had a single letter of their genetic code that was different than the controls, 33 of which were identified as most important. These one-letter differences are called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

Extrapolating forward, one can imagine a “longevity test” based on these differences. Of course, the first thing my husband did was to rifle through our 23andMe genetic scans to see how many of the SNPs we each had – I came out with 19 out of 33, he had 14. Does this mean I’ll live longer than him? Hard to say, since some of the SNPs in this subset seem to be more important than others.

To complicate matters further, some scientists have publicly announced their skepticism of the results. A confounding factor that was the basis of recent controversy over the study is the use of a particular Illumina arraythat may have biased the experiment results. And 23andMe itself wrote a thorough analysis outlining all the uncertainties in the study.

Still, I’m excited about the progress that is being made in understanding the ingredients of longevity. At the recent Health Horizons conference we talked about a future where people would optimize their healthspans, not just lifespans, to live healthy as well as long lives. Ten Year Forecast has also taken a look at the Demographics of Extreme Longevity, interviewing Aubrey de Grey and other pioneers.

Whether or not we’ll be screening babies before birth for their predicted lifespan remains to be seen, but if a test for longevity were to be developed, I know I’d line up to take it. My kids probably wouldn’t though. They already expect to live forever.

Original article at http://iftf.org/node/3529

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