X-Message-Number: 18496
From: "Mark Plus" <>
Subject: One significant longevity gene discovered
Date: Tue, 05 Feb 2002 21:33:34 -0800


Scientists find key to eternal life


THE search for the secret of eternal life has advanced a step, after 
scientists claimed they had located the gene responsible for healthy old 

Icelandic biotechnologists said they had isolated the Methuselah gene, which 
they believe could lead to the development of drugs enabling people to live 

The gene - a stretch of DNA - has been named after the Old Testament figure 
said to have lived for 969 years.

Kari Stefansson, the chief executive of DeCode Genetics, said: "There is no 
reason why we cannot do this.

"We know the location of this gene. Soon we will study its exact DNA 
sequence and work out how it works in the body. You can then think of making 
drugs that could replicate its action."

Researchers pinpointed the gene by using Iceland s uniquely comprehensive 
family records to compare 1,200 people who had lived beyond 90 with a 
similar number with average lifespans.

They found those who lived longer were much more closely related than in the 
other group.

Mr Stefansson said: "Our tight heritage and records are ideal for this sort 
of work. We have the same genes as everyone else on the planet, but because 
we have a small, tight population of only 270,000, it is much easier to 
pinpoint those of us that carry genes that have interesting functions."

The scientists discovered that those who lived longer appeared to have 
inherited a single gene that protected them against old age, rather than 
being born into families which did not inherit genes that made them 
vulnerable to illnesses.

DeCode s work follows research published by Harvard Medical School in the US 
last year, that claimed people who lived past 100 had in-built defences 
against old age.

The study, which was aimed at protecting people from ageing, found such 
people had a longevity gene which was inherited, so their children were also 
likely to live ten to 15 years longer than average.

It also found that the brothers and sisters of centenarians were four times 
more likely than average of living to 90. The Harvard researchers discovered 
that all 137 100-year-olds they studied had Methuselah-type genes, which 
appeared to enable them to fight off conditions such as cancer, dementia and 
heart disease.

Scientists had previously believed thousands of human genes worked together 
to determine how long people live.

Professor Thomas Perls, a geriatrician involved with the Harvard study, 
said: "An average set of genes will allow you to live to your mid to late 
eighties. To get another 20 healthy years, you have these disease -resistant 

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