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Rare Gene Mutation Plays Role in Longevity
Date:3/4/2008

Study found it restricts growth factor, leads to shorter stature but longer life

TUESDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- A rare gene mutation that restricts a particular growth factor may be one of the keys to living to 100 and beyond, a new study suggests.

This mutation, which seems to decrease the activity of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), results in short stature but longer life. Exactly why this might lengthen someone's life isn't known, but the researchers say the finding might prove useful in developing anti-aging drugs.

"We found that people of a hundred years old have mutations in a gene that is related to the growth hormone pathway," said lead researcher Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "We think this is important, because that's what now happens in nature. The pony lives longer than the horse, the small dog lives longer than a large dog. Apparently, it's true for humans also."

Interestingly, this particular mutation has been found mostly among women, he added.

It might be possible, given these findings, to develop drugs that can prevent aging and age-related disease, Barzilai noted. "There are drugs being developed to decrease growth hormone in patients with tumors, because sometimes cancer is dependent on growth hormones," he said. "Maybe we can adopt the strategy to slow aging."

The report was published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the study, Barzilai's team looked for this mutation among a population of Ashkenazi Jews who were 100, and their offspring. They also matched these offspring with people who had no history of longevity in their family. The researchers found this particular mutation was more common among those who were centenarians and their offspring. The same research team reported in December 2006 that a p
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