Could there be a Gene for Longevity ?
Scientists are in a search for a gene that may be a deciding factor for a long life at least in some. In this pursuit Harvard scientist Tom Perls feel that they have found such a gene, a discovery they hope could ultimately be used to make a pill to lengthen life.
The scientists feel that they have strong evidence that an important longevity gene may be located in a small stretch of chromosome 4. The function of the gene is unknown and its possible that more than one gene may be involved. It is thought that the gene may be somehow conferring resistance to disease. That is why many centenarians remain remarkably healthy.
Conventional wisdom that diet, exercise, avoidance of smoking and other good habits prolong life is certainly true for most of us but there may be something like a ‘genetic booster rocket’ that propels a very small percentage of humanity from 80 years-old stage to centenarian status.
There is much evidence contrary to the postulations in favor of the longevity gene. A large body of scientific research suggests that environment counts for more. In 1993, a study of 600 Danish twins found that gene account for only 30 % of the reason that some people live to the ripe old age. But that may not be the last word.
But many researchers were surprised to find that many of the centenarians were not particularly free of vices. Many eat fatty foods regularly, and some were couch potatoes. French women Jeanne Calment, the oldest person in documented history when she died at an age of 122, was a smoker.
Four families in New England were found to have unusual cluster of centenarians. In one family, eight of the ten siblings lived to be at least 90 years old. The odds of that happening by chance is too remote. Similar clusters of centenarians were found in many families. Part of the clustering may be explained by the fact that the siblings share similar upbringing and habits. But some of the families included centenarians who lived far apart. In some families the spouses sharing many habits did not live particularly long..