Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Longevity Genetics....What's Old is New!

Today in the news there are reports of Dr. Jonathan Rothberg's plans to extract DNA from the saliva of 100 people over the age of 95. It was also posted on back in July on ABC. I would just like to bring attention to it again and compare this with the work that has already been done by one scientist.

The idea is to study those who have lived a long time. Perhaps there is something in their make up which keeps them alive despite the stressors which all of us face. This is nothing new. Nir Barzilai at Albert Einstein College of Medicine has been doing this for years. I have been at several of his lectures. There is a nice video on SAGE Crossroads about what he is and has done.

Rothberg's project is aptly named the Methselah Project after the famed biblical man who live to be 969 years of age. This is not to be confused with the "rock band" or the biblical revival (hits one and two on my google search)

What will he find. Well let's examine what Nir found. Of the findings, notable were the polymorphisms on cholesterol genes including homozygosity for the -641C allele in the APOC3 promoter as well as a markedly higher frequency of a functional CETP variant that led to increased particle sizes of HDL and LDL and thus a better health performance are some of the first examples of a phenotype and an associated genotype in humans with exceptional longevity.

The CETP example is interesting simply because of a drug that was recently pulled from trials. It was called Torcetrapib. It was designed to boost the levels of HDL by blocking the function of Cholesterol Ester Transfer Protein (CETP). The problem? Increased blood pressure, then stroke and heart attack. When they released data showing increased BP it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that there would be increased heart attack and stroke. But they continued the trials despite this until finally the data implicated Torcetrapib in increased risk of stroke and MI.

What will Dr Jonathan's project show. Hopefully some of the same linkages. Will we "Cure" aging by figuring out these markers? Well Hsien posts on this topic over at Eye on DNA. I would be interested in what my readers and fellow bloggers have to say. Send me an email.

The Sherpa Says: Longevity genetics is a lot like nutrigenomics......As Dr Ordovas says regarding diet and genes "It is like looking through the keyhole of a door." The relationships are truly complicated and it will take a while till we can recommend measures to prevent Aging. Oh the horrors of this dreaded disease! The Buddha would say differently and so would the Sherpa.

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