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Surprising Science

The Oldest Humans Have Mundane Genes

Contrary to scientists' expectations, the genes of individuals who live to be over 110 years-old are pretty normal. At the genetic level, supercentarians are just like everyone else. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Boston University scientists have sequenced the genomes of two 114 year-olds, expecting to find structural or functional differences in their genetic makeup that allowed them to live so long. Instead, they found their genes to be, well, pretty normal. The research debunks a long-held suspicion that supercentenarians carried fewer genes that are predisposed to disease. “People who live very long carry as many disease pre-disposing variants as people in the general population,” said Paola Sebastiana who worked on the research. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Now scientists believe that cases of incredible longevity are caused by a confluence of many factors rather than a singular biological advantage. “It’s a phenomenon where many things go right at the same time. These people retain their cognitive functions until the end of their lives. They do not have cardiovascular disease. Parkinson’s disease is totally absent,” said Sebastiana. While research on centenarians is still in a preliminary stage, the falling cost of sequencing technology is about to create a data boom.

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