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Secret to Long Life Stays Hidden

Researchers sequenced some 17 supercentenarians — people over the age of 110 — to try to uncover genetic secrets as to their longevity. But they report in PLOS One this week, they were unable to pinpoint any rare variant that was over-represented in the supercentenarians, as GenomeWeb Daily News notes.

The team led by Stanford University's Stuart Kim did observe enrichment of changes to TSHZ3 in their supercentenarian cohort, but that finding didn't replicate in a follow-up cohort of people aged 98 or older.

"Our hope was that we would find a longevity gene," Kim tells Reuters. "We were pretty disappointed."

Still, Kim adds that there is likely a genetic component to such longevity, but it might not be as simple as a single gene. Twin studies, GWDN points out, have found that the genetic contribution to longevity is about 20 percent to 30 percent, a figure that may be higher in more long-lived families.

"The results indicate that the genetic effect must be complex. It must be many genes, or different genes in each supercentenarian, that gives them the edge to live an extremely long time," Kim says, noting that the supercentenarians didn't have especially healthy eating or good exercise habits.