Researchers have in the past demonstrated that the children of very long-lived individuals tend to themselves have greater longevity. Thus is isn't surprising to see evidence of better measures of health as well, such as in thus study where the offspring of centenarians have less inflammation and longer telomeres. Aging is a process of accumulating damage to cells and tissues, and both chronic inflammation and telomere shortening are largely or completely a reflection of that damage and its direct consequences, and in turn go on cause their own further consequences. Rising levels of inflammation, for example, are in part caused by immune system dysfunction and the effects of cross-link forming advanced glycation end-products on cell activities.
"Centenarians and supercentenarians are different - put simply, they age slower. They can ward off diseases for much longer than the general population." In groups of people aged 105 and over (semi-supercentenarians), those 100 to 104 (centenarians), those nearly 100 and their offspring, the team measured a number of health markers which they believe contribute towards successful ageing, including blood cell numbers, metabolism, liver and kidney function, inflammation and telomere length.
Scientists expected to see a continuous shortening of telomeres with age, however what they found was that the children of centenarians, who have a good chance of becoming centenarians themselves, maintained their telomeres at a 'youthful' level corresponding to about 60 years of age even when they became 80 or older. "Our data reveals that once you're really old, telomere length does not predict further successful ageing. However, it does show that those who have a good chance to become centenarians and those older than 100 maintain their telomeres better than the general population, which suggests that keeping telomeres long may be necessary or at least helpful to reach extreme old age."
Centenarian offspring maintained lower levels of markers for chronic inflammation. These levels increased in everybody with age including centenarians and older, but those who were successful in keeping them low had the best chance to maintain good cognition, independence and stay alive for longer. "It has long been known that chronic inflammation is associated with the ageing process in younger, more 'normal' populations, but it's only very recently we could mechanistically prove that inflammation actually causes accelerated ageing in mice. "This study, showing for the first time that inflammation levels predict successful ageing even in the extreme old, makes a strong case to assume that chronic inflammation drives human ageing too. Our study showed that over a wide age range, including unprecedentedly large numbers of the extremely old, inflammation is an important driver of ageing that might be something we can develop a pharmacological treatment for. Accordingly, designing novel, safe anti-inflammatory or immune-modulating medication has major potential to improve healthy lifespan."
I think that there are some cart and horse issues in the conclusions drawn here by the researchers involved. This is the case in much of modern medicine for age-related conditions: development focuses on addressing proximate causes and consequences of root causes rather than on the root causes themselves. It is trying to clean up the spill from a broken pipe without fixing the pipe, or trying to make an old, worn car run more effectively by being very diligent in changing the oil. Present research and development strategies result in expensive treatments that do comparatively little, and this must change if we are to see greater progress towards effective treatments for aging.