A pill to help people live to 100 is set to "revolutionise" ageing, experts said
By Donna Bowater / Source: Daily Express
A pill to help people live to 100 free from debilitating health problems is set to "revolutionise" ageing, experts said yesterday.
The breakthrough has come after scientists identified three "super-genes".
People born with the genes are 20 times more likely to reach a century -- and 80 per cent less likely to develop the senility disease Alzheimer's.
Even being overweight or a heavy smoker does not stop a third of those with the genes living to 100.
Now US researchers are working to produce a drug that can mimic the genetic benefits and hope it will be ready for testing within three years.
Life expectancy for men in the UK is 77, for women it is 82. At the same time nearly half a million Britons are affected by Alzheimer's.
Lead scientist Dr Nir Barzilai said: "The advantage of finding a gene that involves longevity is we can develop a drug that will imitate what this gene is doing. If we can imitate that, then long life can be terrific."
Professor Judith Phillips, president of the British Society of Gerontology, said the discovery would change how people look at growing old.
She said: "It's a huge opportunity because the ageing population is growing anyway. They would be a huge resource because people would be able to work longer and they would have a healthier life, and it would revolutionise the way we look at older people.
"And it would reduce costs in terms of care."
A US study looked at 500 Ashkenazi Jews living in New York with an average age of 100.
They were chosen after previous studies found the group to have a very specific genetic footprint because their bloodline had been kept very pure.
Although a third were obese or had smoked two packets of cigarettes a day for more than 40 years, they shared three "super-genes" that extended life expectancy.
Two genes produced "good" cholesterol, which reduced the risk of heart disease and strokes, while a third gene protected against diabetes.
Those with the longevity genes had a one in 500 chance of reaching 100, compared with a one in 10,000 chance in the rest of the population.
Dr Barzilai, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said: "Because our centenarians have longevity genes, they are protected against many effects of the environment.
"That's why they do whatever they want to do and they get through anyhow."
He said two of the genes "increase good cholesterol in a significant way". He added: "There's no drug that does it so effectively."
The specific genotype that seemed to protect against diabetes also appeared to radically cut that person's chances of developing Alzheimer's.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "I think it's optimistic to say we're going to have pills in three years but it would certainly add significantly to the ways in which we can help prolong life.
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