Given that long life spans tend to run in families, researchers have long suspected that genetics play a big role in this trait.
Here, the researchers conducted a genome-wide association study in 1,055 centenarians and 1,267 controls participating in the New England Centenarian Study, founded and directed by Perls.
From this, a genetic model that included 150 single nucleotide polymorphisms, or genetic variants, was able to predict with 77 percent accuracy how long a person was going to live.
"That's very high accuracy for a genetic model, which means that the traits that we're looking at have a very strong genetic basis," said study lead author Paola Sebastiani, a professor of biostatistics at Boston University School of Public Health.
The other 23 percent could be accounted for by environmental and lifestyle factors or genetic factors that simply are unknown at this point, Perls said.
The researchers also found 19 different genetic "signatures" in 90 percent of centenarians which correlated with "different patterns of exceptional longevity," said Sebastiani.
For example, some signatures correlated with the longest survival, and others with the most delayed onset of age-related illnesses, such as dementia or cardiovascular disease.
Surprisingly, said Sebastiani, "what seems to make people live very long lives is not a lack of genetic predisposition to diseases but an enrichment of longevity-associated variants that may counter the effects of disease-associated variants."
Basically, good genes seem to outweigh bad ones.
The long-livers did n
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