Posted on Feb 16, 2010, 6 a.m.
UK/Europe research collaboration identifies definitive genetic variants associated with biological aging in humans.
For the first time, a team of scientists has identified definitive genetic variants associated with biological aging in humans. Tim Spector, from King’s College London (United Kingdom), and colleagues from the University of Leicester (United Kingdom) and University of Groningen (The Netherlands) studied telomeres, the endcaps on chromosomes and the shortening of which is considered a marker of biological aging. The researchers found that those individuals carrying a particular genetic variant had shorter telomeres – they looked biologically older. The variants identified lies near a gene called TERC, which has been previously posited as a contributor in the maintenance of telomere length. The team postulates that some people are genetically programmed to age at a faster rate. They noted the effect to be quite considerable in those with the variant, equivalent to between 3-4 years of 'biological aging" as measured by telomere length loss. Alternatively, the researchers speculate that 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.
Veryan Codd, Massimo Mangino, Pim van der Harst, Peter S Braund, Michael Kaiser, Alan J Beveridge, Suzanne Rafelt, Jasbir Moore, Chris Nelson, Nicole Soranzo, et al. “Common variants near TERC are associated with mean telomere length.” Nature Genetics, 7 February 2010; doi:10.1038/ng.532.