The genetic legacy that centenarians leave in their descendants

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Centenarians exhibit not only extreme longevity, but also marked morbidity compression, show a unique genetic signature, and their offspring appear to inherit morbidity compression, as measured by lower rates of age-related pathology.

A genetic analysis of descendants of centenarians reveals a specific genetic fingerprint that may explain why they are less frail than descendants of non-centenarians of the same age.

This is the main conclusion of a study led by the University of Valencia (UV), the Center for Biomedical Research in the Network of Fragility and Healthy Aging (CIBERFES), and the Institute of Health Research (INCLIVA), in Spain the three entities.

The team led by José Viña, professor of Physiology at the UV, researcher at CIBERFES and principal investigator of the Research Group on Aging and Physical Exercise at INCLIVA, used a sample made up of 63 centenarians, 88 descendants of these and 88 descendants of people who were not centenarians from a health area near Valencia. The conditions to enter the study were to have a parent living for more than 97 years, to be between 65 and 80 years old and not to have any terminal illness. Likewise, the state of frailty was determined according to the Fried criteria, by which a person with weight loss, exhaustion, weak grip strength, slow walking speed and low physical activity is considered frail.

According to Consuelo Borrás, coordinator of the study, professor of Physiology at the UV, researcher at CIBERFES and principal investigator of the INCLIVA Healthy Aging Research Group, “our results show that the descendants of centenarians have a lower prevalence of frailty in relationship with their contemporaries descendants of non-centenarians. Likewise, we collected plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from the individuals in the sample and found that the gene expression patterns (miRNA and mRNA) of the descendants of the centenarians were more similar to those of the centenarians than to those of the descendants of non-centenarians, despite being the same age”.

Therefore, the offspring of centenarians are less fragile than the offspring of non-centenarians of the same age “and this can be explained by their unique genetic make-up”, indicates the CIBERFES researcher.

Consuelo Borrás and José Viña. (Photo: UV)

This study, a pioneer in comparing functional profiles (fragility status) and genetic profiles (miRNA and mRNA expression patterns) of descendants of centenarians and descendants of non-centenarians, reinforces, according to José Viña, “the idea that the former are genetically different of their contemporaries and resemble centenarians in certain unique genetic characteristics, so our results can contribute to advance the identification of key genetic and functional characteristics that can be considered biomarkers of successful aging”.

The proportion of people over the age of 60 is growing faster than any other age group, as a result of both increased life expectancy and declining birth rates. Much of the research in this area has focused on increasing the number of years spent without disabilities (lifespan), often referred to as “successful aging.” Centenarians are considered model cases of this “successful aging” as they appear to avoid or greatly delay the onset of age-related diseases or geriatric syndromes, thus displaying a decelerated aging trajectory.

The study is titled “Functional transcriptomic analysis of centenarians’ offspring reveals a specific genetic footprint that may explain that they are less frail than age-matched non-centenarians’ offspring.” And it has been published in the academic journal The Journals of Gerontology. (Source: UV)

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Written by Editor TLN

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