Posted on Jul 15, 2018, 3 p.m.
According to a new study, a deletion in d3-GHR, a growth hormone receptor gene, is linked to an average of ten extra years of life among men.
Pinpointing specific genetic factors tied to longevity in human beings has been quite the challenge. A recent study shows that whether or not there has been a deletion of the growth hormone receptor gene’s exon 3 (d3-GHR) may play an important role. The research results were recently published this past Friday in the journal Science Advances.
Details About the Finding
About 840 individuals from long-lived populations were studied.The researchers found that males with the mutation deletions in d3-GHR tend to live an average of 10 years longer than those without the mutation. It is interesting to note this effect was limited to men. There was no difference noted in the women.
The deletion of d3-GHR still allows for the existence of a functional protein that boosts longevity. The study's co-author, Gil Atzmon, describes the finding as “phenomenal”. Atzmon is a geneticist at Albert Einstein's College of Medicine as well as the University of Haifa, located in Israel. Atzmon states the result is “more accurate and globally translated” as his colleagues observed the same pattern across nearly half a dozen different populations. They include those who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study, those who participated in the French Long-Lived Study, the Old Order Amish and Ashkenazi Jews. The director of genome informatics with the Scripps Translational Science Institute, Ali Torkamani, commented that the results look convincing from his perspective.
What was of particular interest, is that Atzmon and his research team determined the men with two replicas of the d3-GHR deletion were an average of an inch taller than other men. This is the exact opposite of what the research team expected. They suspect the mutation alters the receptor's response to increases in growth hormone during instances such as pubertal growth spurts. They also suspect the mutation limits the responses to growth hormone as one passes into the adult years, spurring a slower division of cells and reducing the rate at which aging occurs.
Why the Results Matter
The research results raise the question of whether it is prudent to prescribe growth hormone to patients in an effort to restore or maintain a body that is more youthful. The study's co-author, Nir Barzilai, a geneticist with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has expressed concern that providing such treatments might actually be more likely to produce the opposite result of what was originally intended.