Once thought to be an extremely complex conundrum of weak genetic and environmental effects, exceptional longevity is beginning to yield genetic findings. Numerous lower organism and mammalian models demonstrate genetic mutations that increase life-span markedly. These variations, some of them evolutionarily conserved, inform us about biochemical pathways that significantly impact upon longevity. Centenarian studies have also proven useful as they are a cohort that, relative to younger age groups, lacks genotypes linked to age-related lethal diseases and premature mortality. Pedigree studies have demonstrated a significant familial component to the ability to survive to extreme old age and a recent study demonstrates a locus on chromosome 4 linked to exceptional longevity indicating the likely existence of at least one longevity enabling gene in humans. Thus, a number of laboratories are making substantial and exciting strides in the understanding of the genetics of aging and longevity which should lead to the discovery of genes and ultimately drugs that slow down the aging process and facilitate people's ability to delay and perhaps escape age-associated diseases.
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