Although it’s still ongoing, findings have started to come in on the healthy aging genetic discoveries stemming from the “Wellderly” study.
This bit of research launched in 2007 and is a large-scale genetic screening of U.S. individuals aged 80 to 105 who have no history of chronic illness.
The results? A veritable metric-ton of genetic findings for lowered Alzheimer’s risk, lowered heart disease risk, and more.
The study was conducted by taking blood samples from 511 elderly individuals who were free of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and Parkinson’s, and had no history of heart attacks, stroke, or any other form of chronic disease or illness.
The wellderly genomes were sequenced and compared to the results of genome sequences taken from a representative sample of the American populace at large. In total, a whopping 24,205,551 genetic variants were compared across the two groups.
Unsurprisingly, no silver bullet for healthy aging was found. Instead, a collection of unique and rare variants were observed that could collectively protect against decline. For instance, rare variants in the COL25A1 gene, which encodes for the key component of Alzheimer’s plaques, were found in 10 wellderly subjects but none of the controls.
This suggests a potential avenue for targeted treatments that, if the research pans out, could lead to further treatments for Alzheimer’s. Other reductions in genetic risk were found for coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease.
Interestingly, no differences in genetic risk for cancer, stroke, or type 2 diabetes were found between the two groups. This suggests that there were other protective behaviors at play among the wellderly, or that there was a genetic influence yet to be discovered.
Since it takes time to go through over 24 million genetic comparisons, the study has not finished and released its full findings yet. What has been discovered so far, however, offers a tantalizing taste of the work that goes into finding ways for humans to enjoy healthy aging well into their golden years.
Source for Today’s Article:
Whiteman, H., “What Is the Key to Healthy Aging? New Gene Study Sheds Light,” Medical News Today web site, April 22, 2016; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/309346.php, last accessed June 29, 2016.