Amish have rare anti-aging gene

Researchers studying members of an Amish community found a rare genetic mutation that appears to raise the human life span. The researchers hope that this gene could guide the development of medical interventions that reverse the aging process.
By Linda Mack | Nov 29, 2017
A gene mutation that lowers diabetes risk, boosts metabolism, and enables longer lifespans appears to be present in a large swath of the Amish community, according to a new study published in Science Advances. The study authors suggest that more research into this gene could be a key to greater longevity for all of humanity.

"It is a remarkable natural experiment," said Dr. Douglas Vaughan, a Northwestern University's School of Medicine cardiologist and a coauthor of the study, said. "It gives us a glimpse into new approaches to reduce aging-related illnesses and perhaps extend the healthy lifespan of humans."

Vaughan and his team ran genetic analyses of 177 members of the Berne Amish Community in Indiana. The researchers zeroed in on each subject's copy of the SERPINE1 gene, a gene that codes for a protein called PAI-1.

PAI-1 is one of a number of proteins that the human body's cells produce in growing amounts over time as the body ages. Measuring these proteins is one way to measure the progression of aging.

In their analyses, Vaughan and his team found that 43 of their Amish subjects exhibited a nonfunctional SERPINE1 gene. And these individuals were living an average of 10 years longer than their neighbors. They also showed no incidence whatsoever of diabetes, whereas 7% of their community's general population was diabetic. In addition, they had relatively lower levels of fasting insulin, which gave them a heightened ability to metabolize food and nutrients.

This gene mutation is rare in the general human population, but Vaughan said that future researchers could make anti-aging interventions based on the gene for the rest of us. Clinical trials are already under way in Japan for a PA-1 blocker, for example.

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