BU Researchers Close In On Long-Living Genes

This article is more than 11 years old.

Boston University researchers have identified a series of genetic signatures that can predict whether people will live to be 100 years old.

Certain genes have been linked to long life before, but not with such large scope. BU researchers have identified 150 genetic markers that, in different patterns, show up in more than three out of four centenarians.

"This is a very complex genetic puzzle," says Thomas Perls, from Boston University Medical Center, one of the study's authors.

And now, researchers can start putting the puzzle pieces together. Some of the genes identified were not on anyone’s radar before.

The team looked at the genomes of 1,055 Caucasians born between 1890 and 1910 and compared them with 1,267 people born later.

By studying genetic markers the researchers were able to predict with 77 percent accuracy which came from people over 100.

"Seventy-seven percent is very high accuracy for a genetic model," said Paola Sebastiani, the study's other main author. "But 23 percent error rate also shows there us a lot that remains to be discovered."

The study is likely to fuel other research to figure out what these genes do and how they all work together, and to what extent people’s lifestyles play in to the process.

The journal Science published the study Thursday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This program aired on July 1, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Curt Nickisch Twitter Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.