~ Long Life Tied to Three Genes

By Jamie Talan, Staff Writer, Newsday

Only one in 10,000 people will celebrate a century of life, and New York scientists have identified three genes that can help achieve that age. Having any one of these genes can confer a longer and healthier life.

"People with exceptionally long lives offer us a shortcut in understanding diseases and what prevents them," said Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. He studied 300 Ashkenazi Jews between 95 and 108 years old and their children, many of whom themselves have lived beyond the average life span - 77.6 years.

Thirty percent of these families had any one of these three genes, compared with 5 percent of people without a history of longevity.

One gene, called CETP, was present in 8 percent of 65-year-olds. The incidence jumped to 25 percent in those who made it to 105. CETP regulates lipoproteins, which shuttle cholesterol and triglycerides through the bloodstream. CETP increases the good form of cholesterol, HDL. Those who inherited this rare form also showed no signs of dementia, seen in 50 percent of people over 85.

Barzilai reported the findings earlier this week at a meeting on dementia, sponsored by Albert Einstein College.

Another longevity gene identified is called apoC-III, also involved in lipid metabolism. The third gene is APM1, involved in regulation of insulin and the inflammatory process.

In the future, scientists could develop medicines to manipulate proteins made by these genes, Barzilai said, adding that Pfizer is testing a cholesterol-lowering drug that seems to do the same thing CETP does.

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