Published January 19, 2012
BOSTON – A new blood test can predict a person's chance of living to 100 with up to 85 percent accuracy, U.S. scientists said Thursday.
Researchers from Boston University studied the DNA of 801 centenarians along with a control group of 914 healthy people of all ages and identified 281 genetic variants in the elderly group.
The genetic markers allowed the researchers to formulate a test to predict whether people would live beyond 100 with between 60 percent and 85 percent accuracy.
The test's accuracy increased with the age of the participant -- meaning the older the person taking the test, the more reliable the calculation of how long they will live.
As people who reach 100 generally do not experience age-related diseases until their mid-90s, scientists hope that isolating their genetic traits may help to find new treatments for diseases such as dementia and heart failure.
Dr. Thomas Perls, the study's lead author, said, "Further study of these genetic characteristics may yield a better understanding of the genetic and biological bases of delaying or escaping age-related diseases and achieving longer survival."
While the findings suggest that genetics play a much greater role in determining longevity than previously thought, the researchers stressed that healthy aging is still impacted by lifestyle factors, such as diet.
The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, replaces research done by the same team in 2010 that was retracted from the journal Science due to problems with the analysis of the initial data.
Thursday's paper was independently reviewed by Yale University scientists and an additional data set of elderly participant with an average age of 107 was added.