Scientists identify first genetic variant linked to biological aging in humans

Scientists announced today they have identified for the first time definitive variants associated with biological ageing in humans. The team analyzed more than 500,000 genetic variations across the entire human genome to identify the variants which are located near a gene called TERC.

The study in published today by researchers from the University of Leicester and King's College London, working with University of Groningen in the Netherlands, was funded by The Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation.

British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester Professor Nilesh Samani, of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, who co-led the project explained that there are two forms of ageing - chronological ageing i.e. how old you are in years and biological ageing whereby the cells of some individuals are older (or younger) than suggested by their actual .

He said: "There is accumulating evidence that the risk of age-associated diseases including heart disease and some types of cancers are more closely related to biological rather than chronological age.

"What we studied are structures called telomeres which are parts of one's . Individuals are born with telomeres of certain length and in many cells telomeres shorten as the cells divide and age. Telomere length is therefore considered a marker of biological ageing.

"In this study what we found was that those individuals carrying a particular genetic variant had shorter telomeres i.e. looked biologically older. Given the association of shorter telomeres with age-associated diseases, the finding raises the question whether individuals carrying the variant are at greater risk of developing such diseases"

Professor Tim Spector from King's College London and director of the TwinsUK study, who co-led this project, added:

"The variants identified lies near a gene called TERC which is already known to play an important role in maintaining telomere length. What our study suggests is that some people are genetically programmed to age at a faster rate. The effect was quite considerable in those with the variant, equivalent to between 3-4 years of 'biological aging" as measured by telomere length loss. Alternatively genetically susceptible people may age even faster when exposed to proven 'bad' environments for telomeres like smoking, obesity or lack of exercise - and end up several years biologically older or succumbing to more age-related diseases. "

More information: The paper, will be published online in Nature Genetics on 07 February 2010. To view the paper, please visit
Provided by University of Leicester
Citation: Scientists identify first genetic variant linked to biological aging in humans (2010, February 7) retrieved 18 February 2019 from
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Feb 07, 2010
How can i volunteer for genetic experimentation?

I'm apparantly highly resistant to most common bacterial or viral illnesses, and I have o-negative blood.

Feb 07, 2010
At first I thought "Yay, tell us something we already know, again." Then, as I read further I realised it was ALSO "Yay, push more 'advice' about how to live down our throats."

Journalism at it's finest.

Feb 07, 2010

Wow. They are trying to tell you how to live longer and healthier, and because that requires you giving up one of your favorite vices you complain?

This is so typical of the "intellectuals" on this web site.

If most of you people were even half as smart as you think you are, you would be promoting the abolition of alcohol and tobacco, for your own good.

Instead, we have a bunch of idiots with masters and phd who like to poison themselves on weekends and lunch breaks...and find fault with anyone who tries to save their lives...

For my entire life tobacco products have come with label that warns you that it is going to give you cancer and probably kill you, and yet fools continue to buy them by the millions, even at four and half dollars per pack.

Alcohol would also have a similar label if not for the fact that the companies and families involved are too powerful...

But this is American..."majority rules"...unfortunately the majority are a bunch of fools.

Feb 07, 2010
this is American..."majority rules"...unfortunately the majority are a bunch of fools.
And, "land of the free" where fools are freely exploited.

Feb 08, 2010
Why would any intelligent person push for the abolition of tobacco and alcohol? Don't mix intelligence with compassion, because frankly -- intelligent people have no interest in your well being. An intelligent person would rather learn how to use your fondness of alcohol or tobacco to his advantage, e.g. economic advantage.

Your logic circuit is broken.

Feb 08, 2010
You are mistaking educated for intelligent, educated people take advantage of weakness, intelligent people don't.

Depends on your definition of intelligent.

Feb 08, 2010
When did this become a political/personal convictions forum vs. a science-discussion forum?

@ Johnnyboy, I think the article implies that they've isolated one 'aging gene', you're saying this has already been done? I'd be interested to read up if you could provide some references

Feb 10, 2010
Intelligence has to be defined at the level of personal gain, unless collective gain is directly imposing on personal gain (in which case the end purpose is still personal gain), or it has absolutely no meaning. I'm not confusing educated people with intelligent people, and that statement makes no sense. An intelligent choice is the choice which is based on as much data as possible in relation to cost while striving for the best possible outcome for the object at hand.

This is really not up for debate. Intelligence is not defined by "being a nice guy", even though "being a nice guy" can be intelligent.

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