Genetics, Ageing: Gene mutation
may contain secret to long life
Researchers have identified
a genetic mutation that is far more common in centenarians
than in younger people. They hope this discovery will shed
light on how we grow old.
People over 100 years old are five times more
likely to have a particular mutation in the DNA located in
their mitochondria, a new study has revealed.
The study, which was carried out on 52 Italian centenarians
and 117 people under the age of 99, found the mutation occurred
in the white blood cells of 17% of the over-100 age group
and in only 3.4% of their younger peers.
Secret to everlasting youth?
The mitochondriaslow the degeneration of cells by converting
the oxidation of metabolites into energy. The newly discovered
mutation changes the location at which mitochondrial DNA,
the cell’s ‘powerhouses’, start to replicate.
Scientists involved in the project think that this genetic
peculiarity may speed up the DNA’s replication, allowing
the individual carrying it to replace damaged molecules faster,
which possibly improves his or her chances of survival.
Further research is being conducted to find out the exact
physiological effects of the genetic mutation.
The results of the study, conducted by researchers at the
California Institute of Technology, have been published in
the proceedings of the US National Academy of Science.
Academy of Science article