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Longevity Briefs: Study of the Super Old reveals DNA Repair Mechanisms may be the Key to Long Life

Posted on 20 May 2021

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Supercentenarians, those who live to 110+ years of age, and semi-supercentenarians, those who live to 105+ years of age, are regarded as model cases for ‘successful ageing’, as they reach a remarkably old age whilst remaining disease-free.

Understanding the factors that allow these individuals to reach such an impressive age, might help to achieve extended healthy lifespan for the general population and to reduce the gap between the fastest and the slowest ageing population groups.

What did the researchers do: In a study published in the science journal eLIFE, a team of, primarily Italian, researchers, sequenced the genomes of 81 supercentenarians and semi-supercentenarians, to compare to a group of younger individuals. The aim of this study was to identify the genetic determinants of extreme longevity.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: The results show that 105+/110+ year olds are characterised by a peculiar genetic background associated with efficient DNA repair mechanisms. This suggests that the efficiency in which your cells repair damage to your DNA, caused by things such as UV light or harmful chemicals, is crucial in living to an old age.

However, this study was intentionally only carried out on a single population, Italians, which reduces its applicability to other groups of people.

A map of the location of the participants. 105+/110+ (in blue) and controls (in orange) recruited in the Italian peninsula.

Despite this the study presented a number of major strengths, including it’s extensive sequencing such a larger group of semi- and supercentenarians, a very sparse cohort.

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