JAN 20, 2019 8:08 PM PST

Identifying Genetic Regions That Influence Lifespan

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

It may one day be possible to predict how long a person will live by looking at a few regions of a person’s genome. A research consortium has published a study in eLife that assessed genetic data from about 500,000 people, as well as information about the lifespan of the participants’ parents. In doing so, the team was able to develop a genetic scoring system; those in the top ten percent of the group would be expected to live around five more years than those in the lowest ten percent. The work also identified genetic regions that can provide insight into aging and health.

Image credit: Pxhere

There are thousands of areas in the genome that have an impact on disease risk, but that has not necessarily shown which genes affect the length of a person’s life. This work has revealed genetic regions that are connected to lifespan. Some have not been pinpointed before this, like regions near the ABO, IGF2R, and ZC3HC1 genes. The study also validated previously identified areas of interest, close to ATXN2/BRAP, CDKN2B-AS1, FURIN/FES, PSORS1C3, and ZW10 genes.

The places that have the biggest influence on lifespan have already been linked to fatal diseases including lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Genes connected to cancers that have nothing to do with smoking did not turn up in this study. 

“We found genes that affect the brain and the heart are responsible for most of the variation in lifespan,” said the first author of the report, Paul Timmers, a graduate candidate at the Usher Institute.

The scientists were not able to find genes that directly impacted how fast people age, however. Though the researchers had sought to do so, any genes like that did not have enough of an effect to be discovered in this effort. 

This study would suggest that lifespan is influenced by too many factors, including environment and lifestyle, to predict exactly how long people will live based on a few genes. It may be possible to find more regions that have an impact by studying more groups of people, however.

“If we take 100 people at birth, or later, and use our lifespan score to divide them into ten groups, the top group will live five years longer than the bottom on average,” said Dr. Peter Joshi, an AXA Fellow at the University of Edinburgh's Usher Institute.

Learn more about the factors influencing a person's lifespan from this TEDx Talk, by Dr. Preston W. Estep. He is part of the senior management team of the Personal Genome Project (PGP) at Harvard Medical School.


Sources: Science Daily via University of Edinburgh, eLife

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 05, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
DNA From 2,000 Year Old Extinct Date Palms is Sequenced
MAY 05, 2021
DNA From 2,000 Year Old Extinct Date Palms is Sequenced
Researchers have taken 2,000 years old date palm seeds that were gathered from archaeological sites and used them to gro ...
MAY 18, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
The Oral Microbiome Reveals How Long We've Loved Starchy Foods
MAY 18, 2021
The Oral Microbiome Reveals How Long We've Loved Starchy Foods
Bacteria are everywhere, including our guts and mouths. Researchers are learnings more about the history of the human mi ...
MAY 20, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
The rhAmpSeq™ CRISPR Analysis System for next-generation sequencing analysis of CRISPR edits
MAY 20, 2021
The rhAmpSeq™ CRISPR Analysis System for next-generation sequencing analysis of CRISPR edits
CRISPR genome editing generates double-stranded breaks (DSBs) in genomic DNA and is a targeted method by which to achiev ...
MAY 25, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Mitochondrial Dysfunction May Raise Schizophrenia Risk in 22q Patients
MAY 25, 2021
Mitochondrial Dysfunction May Raise Schizophrenia Risk in 22q Patients
A disorder called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q) affects about one in 2,000 births, and causes dysfunction in every org ...
JUN 17, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Fish Adapted to Toxins Pass Epigenetic Changes Onto Offspring
JUN 17, 2021
Fish Adapted to Toxins Pass Epigenetic Changes Onto Offspring
Parents pass down their genes to their offspring, and it seems that epigenetic features, which can affect gene activity ...
JUL 01, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Better Understanding of VLCADD May Improve Treatment
JUL 01, 2021
A Better Understanding of VLCADD May Improve Treatment
With newborn screenings, clinicians can now identify newly born infants that carry genetic mutations that will lead to d ...
Loading Comments...