There Will Be Ten Thousand Subtle Gene Variants of Human Longevity

There will be ten thousand subtle gene variants of human longevity. Or rather, these differences between individuals most likely exist now and will be steadily uncovered in the years ahead as the cost of DNA sequencing continues to fall. Most of these longevity-associated genetic variants will look much like this one: an association discovered by comparing long-lived people to average members of the population, and neither terribly exciting nor particularly exploitable:

Cytokines are crucial for the regulation of inflammation development in humans. Many studies have shown that variations in cytokine genes might play a role in determining human longevity.

This study examined the changes in the gene pool relevant to the -308 G/A polymorphism in the promoter region of the proinflammatory cytokine tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha gene and the -1082 G/A polymorphism in the promoter region of anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-10 gene with aging and survival selection occurs in the Jordanian population. .. the IL-10 genotype and allele frequencies were significantly associated with longevity in men but not in women.

We should expect to see subtle associations with human longevity in genes associated with processes known to be important in long-term health - such as the inflammatory response, or indeed anything else associated with the operation of the immune system. But what can be done with this information? As things stand, probably little of consequence. All new knowledge in the biology of human aging will prove useful eventually, but in the near term it seems very unlikely that as much benefit can be derived from such exploration and analysis as from, say, effort put into developing repair technologies for the known forms of age-related damage.

ResearchBlogging.orgKhabour OF, & Barnawi JM (2010). Association of longevity with IL-10 -1082 G/A and TNF-alpha-308 G/A polymorphisms. International journal of immunogenetics PMID: 20518833

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