Swiss-led research team identifies new life-expectancy markers

By , on July 27, 2017


DNA (Photo by AJC1/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
DNA (Photo by AJC1/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

GENEVA, July 28 — A Swiss-led team conducting research on life expectancy said Thursday it had identified the largest-ever number of genetic markers that are almost entirely new to science.

The answer to how long each person will live is partly encoded in their genomes or their genetic material, the researchers said in a statement.

The study was led by scientists from the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB), Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), the University of Lausanne and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL).

The study used advanced computer capabilities to uncover the genetics of our time of death, and ultimately of any disease. During the research, the scientists identified 16 genetic markers associated with a decreased lifespan, including 14 that are new to science.

“This is the largest set of markers of lifespan uncovered to date,” said the SIB in the statement.

While the environment in which we live, including our socio-economic status or the food we eat, plays the biggest part in explaining longevity, about 20 to 30 percent of the variation in human lifespan comes down to genomes.

Changes in particular locations in human DNA sequences, such as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), could therefore hold some of the keys to longevity say the researchers.

“Until now, the most comprehensive studies had found only two hits in the genome,” said Prof. Zoltan Kutalik, group leader at SIB and assistant professor at CHUV, in the statement.

“About 10 percent of the population carries some configurations of these markers that shorten their life by over a year compared with the population average,” the SIB said.

The scientists analyzed data sets of 116,279 individuals and 2.3 million human SNPs. The findings of the study were published in the Nature Communication.