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Page last update: 25/12/2008

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.

Source: News services
More information
National Academy of Science article



Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top