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“Longevity gene” may boost lifespan

Feb. 10, 2009
Courtesy Christian Albrechts Univers­ity in Kiel
and World Science staff

A varia­t­ion in a gene called FOX­O3A seems to in­crease hu­man life ex­pect­an­cy in popula­t­ions world­wide, sci­en­tists re­port.

Re­search­ers at the Christian Albrechts Univers­ity in Kiel, Ger­ma­ny, com­pared DNA from 388 Ger­man cen­te­nar­ians and 731 young­er peo­ple. The find­ings ap­peared last week in the re­search jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Acad­e­my of Sci­ences.

Last Sep­tem­ber, an Amer­i­can re­search team led by Brad­ley J. Will­cox had pub­lished in the jour­nal a study that in­di­cat­ed a high­er fre­quen­cy of this ge­net­ic varia­t­ion in long-lived Amer­i­cans of Jap­a­nese or­i­gin. Al­mut Nebel, the sci­en­tif­ic lead­er of the Christian-Albrechts reearch group, said the newer work has con­firmed Will­cox’s find­ings us­ing in­de­pend­ent popula­t­ions.

“We have now elim­i­nat­ed that un­cer­tain­ty about the con­nec­tion be­tween FOX­O3A and longe­vity, both by our re­sults from the Ger­man sam­ple study and by the sup­port from our French part­ners in Par­is, whose re­search on French cen­te­nar­ians showed the same trend… We can now con­clude that this gene is probably im­por­tant as a fac­tor in longe­vity through­out the world.”

FOX­O3A has been of in­ter­est for re­search on age­ing since it was re­ported in the 1990s that the gene was con­nect­ed with age­ing pro­cesses in worms and flies. 

“The most dif­fi­cult prob­lem is to get enough old peo­ple, es­pe­cially those aged 100 or more, to take part in such a stu­dy,” said Friederike Flachs­bart of the uni­ver­s­ity. “In­ter­est­ingly, the ge­net­ic ef­fects are much more ev­i­dent in 100-year-olds than in 95-year-olds.”


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A variation in a gene called FOXO3A seems to increase human life expectancy in populations worldwide, scientists report. Researchers at the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, Germany, compared DNA from 388 German centenarians with those from 731 younger people. The findings appeared last week in the research journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Last September, an American research team led by Bradley J. Willcox had published in the journal a study that indicated a higher frequency of this genetic variation in long-lived Americans of Japanese origin. Almut Nebel, the scientific leader of the Christian-Albrechts reearch group, said the newer work has confirmed Willcox’s findings using independent populations. “We have now eliminated that uncertainty about the connection between FOXO3A and longevity, both by our results from the German sample study and by the support from our French partners in Paris, whose research on French centenarians showed the same trend… We can now conclude that this gene is probably important as a factor in longevity throughout the world.” FOXO3A is of interest for genetic research on ageing, since it was reported in the 1990s that the gene was connected with ageing processes in worms and flies. “The most difficult problem is to get enough old people, especially those aged 100 or more, to take part in such a study,” said Friederike Flachsbart of the university. “Interestingly, the genetic effects are much more evident in 100-year-olds than in 95-year-olds.”