The data we collected on the genetics of human longevity, mostly resulting from studies on centenarians, indicate that: (1) centenarians and long-living sibpairs are a good choice for the study of human longevity, because they represent an extreme phenotype, i.e., the survival tail of the population who escaped neonatal mortality, pre-antibiotic era illnesses, and fatal outcomes of age-related complex diseases. (2) The model of centenarians is not simply an additional model with respect to well-studied organisms, and the study of humans has revealed characteristics of ageing and longevity (geographical and sex differences, role of antigenic load and inflammation, role of mtDNA variants) which did not emerge from studies in laboratory model systems and organisms. (3) All the phenotypic characteristics of nonagenarians and centenarians fit the hypothesis that ageing is a remodelling process where the body of survivors progressively adapts to internal and external damaging agents they are exposed to during several decades, largely unpredicted by evolution. (4) Such a remodelling process, which can be considered a Darwinian process occurring at the somatic level within the framework of the evolutionary constraints, established by evolution for Homo sapiens as a species, may explain why the same gene polymorphism can have different (beneficial or detrimental) effects at different ages. (5) Geographic and demographic evidence suggest that longevity can be achieved by different combinations of genes, environment, and chance quantitatively and qualitatively different in many geographic areas, and that population-specific genetic factors, play a role on the longevity trait. (6) The concomitant and integrated use of new in silico and high throughput strategies will greatly accelerate the identification of new longevity genes in humans.
- Antagonistic pleiotropy
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