Gene variant found that may help people live to be 100
One gene – apolipoprotein B – had rare mutations in all three long-lived families that were less common in the 800 controls. The protein made by this gene helps carry "bad cholesterol" in the blood, high levels of which lead to heart attacks. It is possible that the mutations reduce levels of this bad cholesterol.
The team is now investigating whether the centenarians' cholesterol levels bear out this theory. If they do, "this would definitely reinforce the idea that cardiovascular health is an important factor in overall ageing", says Cash.
Intriguingly, previous work has shown that another gene for which there is strong evidence for a role in human lifespan is apolipoprotein E, which also helps transport cholesterol. However, the beneficial variants of this gene also reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, which is usually thought to be the main reason behind their effects on longevity.
Another gene that has recently been implicated in longevity is FOXO3A, which may affect people's sensitivity to insulin.