What promotes the longevity of people

The centenary secret

Why are some people 120 years old and others not even 70? Why do centenarians pile up in certain regions and families? Scientists have been trying to unravel the mystery of aging and longevity for decades. Her hope: to discover factors that could one day enable us to stay healthy and live longer.

In 1928 the American statistician Louis Dublin postulated a maximum human life expectancy of 65 years. Mankind has long since passed this threshold in many countries. Today, for example, around 10,000 over centenarians are already living in Germany, and in 2050 it could even be 115,000. Whether we humans could theoretically even reach the legendary age of the biblical Methuselah - 969 years - is debated. The American geneticist Richard Cawthon believes it is entirely possible that we will one day live to be a thousand years old - if we can outsmart the natural processes of aging.

But like all complex biological traits, aging is the result of many interacting influences and factors. It is clear that environmental influences such as diet, exercise and standard of living play an important role. Those who live in poverty and poor medical care have worse chances of getting old. But it is also clear that there are clusters of long-lived people in certain families that cannot be explained by environmental factors alone. There must be a hereditary component here. But which? And how many?

The first genes that seem to promote a long, healthy life have now been discovered. A “Methuselah gene”, which alone regulates lifespan, has not yet been among them. Obviously, longevity is also more complex than previously assumed. But the age researchers keep looking, they are looking for further genetic components and mechanisms that extend our lives ...

Nadja Podbregar
Status: 04/16/2010

April 16, 2010