Posted on Jul 28, 2017, 8 a.m.
Researchers have identified the largest-ever number of genetic markers – most of which are brand new to science – that are linked to life expectancy.
A research team based in Switzerland has pinpointed a massive haul of genetic markers. It is the largest group of such genetic markers ever identified. The vast majority of them are new to science. They are directly tied to the life expectancy of human beings. All but two of these SNPs are brand new to science. The research was made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss Initiative in Systems Biology. The findings were recently published in Nature Communications.
The Genome's Role
The length of an individual's life is predominantly determined by his environment. As an example, the place one resides, his level of wealth, dietary intake and whether he smokes all play major roles in how long he will live. Yet between one-quarter and one-third of variations in life expectancy are likely determined by the genome.
About the Discovery
Scientists think variations at certain locations along DNA sequences, referred to as nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), provide clues about the genetic aspect of lifespan. Yet only two of these markers have been identified. The Swiss research team comprised of experts from Switzerland's Institute for Bioinformatics, the University of Lausanne, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the Lausanne University Hospital have utilized an innovative computational means of pinpointing a remarkable 16 SNPs tied to lifespan. It is the largest group of genetic markers associated with lifespan ever discovered.
How the Discovery was Made
The Swiss research team studied a data set comprised of more than 116,000 people derived from a United Kingdom Biobank study. They analyzed about 2.3 million SNPs. Priority was given to DNA variations known to be associated with sickness tied to age in order to scan the genome in a highly effective manner. The research determined one in ten individuals carries a configuration of these newly identified markers that can decrease lifespan by more than a year versus the population at large.
The majority of the newly identified SNPs were linked to several different risk factors or diseases like a predisposition to develop schizophrenia or the likelihood of developing a drug addiction. It is clear that it is not as simple as pinpointing places along DNA molecules that code for a distinct lifespan. The research performed by the Swiss scientists approached the links between longevity and genetics in more of a holistic manner.
Aaron F. McDaid et al. Bayesian association scan reveals loci associated with human lifespan and linked biomarkers, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS15842