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Annu Rev Med. 2005;56:193-212.

Genetics of longevity and aging.

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  • 1University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas 78245, USA.


Longevity, i.e., the property of being long-lived, has its natural limitation in the aging process. Longevity has a strong genetic component, as has become apparent from studies with a variety of organisms, from yeast to humans. Genetic screening efforts with invertebrates have unraveled multiple genetic pathways that suggest longevity is promoted through the manipulation of metabolism and the resistance to oxidative stress. To some extent, these same mechanisms appear to act in mammals also, despite considerable divergence during evolution. Thus far, evidence from population-based studies with humans suggests the importance of genes involved in cardiovascular disease as important determinants of longevity. The challenge is to test if the candidate longevity genes that have emerged from studies with model organisms exhibit genetic variation for life span in human populations. Future investigations are likely to involve large-scale case-control studies, in which large numbers of genes, corresponding to entire gene functional modules, will be assessed for all possible sequence variation and associated with detailed phenotypic information on each individual over extended periods of time. This should eventually unravel the genetic factors that contribute to each particular aging phenotype.

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