Genomic Studies Sift Centenarian DNA For Genes Protecting Against Age Related Diseases
Occasionally, you hear tell of a hale hundred-year-old who drank and smoked their whole life, or the reverse, a health nut who fell prey to a killer disease at 40. Though diet and exercise influence health and longevity, they’re only part of the story.
The inherited, genetic drivers of aging and illness are still poorly understood. But that may change in coming years. Scientists believe the sorcerer’s stone is written in our DNA, we just have to mine the code.
To do this, researchers are studying the genomes of people who’ve lived the longest, healthiest lives. They hope that by comparing these folks to each other and to the general population, they can pinpoint genetic peculiarities the rest of us lack.
Such comparative genomic studies weren’t possible even a decade ago. Though Francis and Crick’s double helix celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, the first human genome wasn’t sequenced until 2003, after 16 years and nearly $3 billion.
Craig Venter and his team spent some $100 million on that first genome, but since then, expenses have decreased by several orders of magnitude. Today, scientists can rapidly sequence an entire human genome for under $5,000.
Lower costs are enabling the first truly rigorous genomic studies; that is, large scale trials comparing hundreds or thousands of genomes to one another.