The average life expectancy of American men is 79 years. Now, Israeli researchers have found a genetic mutation that promotes longevity, increasing men’s lifespan by an average of 10 years.
The researchers claim to have identified, for the first time, a genetic variation that modifies the growth hormone function and encourages longevity in men.
Their initial research population comprised 102 American male Jews at the age of 100. The results were then compared with three additional populations of people at the age of 100 from around the world. In all the groups, the deletion of exon 3 (a part of a gene) from the growth hormone receptor gene was found to be significantly more common among men (and not women) at the age of 100, compared to the control group of 70-year-olds. On average, people born with this variation lived 10 years longer than those without it.
According to Prof. Gil Atzmon of the University of Haifa, who led the study, this variation is not the only reason for longevity, and many of the participants in the study survived beyond the age of 100 without this variation. However, the presence of the variant ensured longevity with virtual certainty. “We were aware before that genetic paths related to the growth hormone are associated with longevity. Now, we have found a specific variant whose presence or absence is directly connected to it.”
Atzmon and his colleagues at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine had already found that dysfunction in the biological paths associated with the growth hormone and with insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) contribute to longevity. Until now, however, these paths were tested in the laboratory, and few mechanisms responsible for this process had been identified in the human body.
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A connection between growth hormone function and longevity
The examination of the action of the variation showed that it has an unusual impact. In nature, shorter strains of the same species usually live longer. For example, ponies live longer than horses, smaller breeds of dogs live longer than larger ones, and the same phenomenon is found among various rodents and insects.
In this case, the variation in the receptor allowed the cells to absorb less growth hormone; however, when the hormone absorbed the protein, expression was several times higher. The result: people born with the mutation who lived for 10 years more than others were also approximately 3 cm taller than those born without the receptor.
“This study nicely wraps up the connection between growth hormone function and longevity,” Atzmon says. “Our goal now is really to understand the mechanism of the variation we found, so that we can implement it and enable longevity while maintaining quality of life.”
The study was recently published in the scientific journal Science Advances from the Science group.
Photos: GeneG, stevepb