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Live to a 100: Your genes will help

One hundred folks 100 and older are part of a project to study their entire collection of DNA, called whole-genome sequencing, to uncover some secrets to longevity.

 According to the Associated Press story:

By the time you reach, say, 105, “it's very hard to get there without some genetic advantages,” says Dr. Thomas Perls, a geriatrics expert at Boston University. Perls is helping find centenarians for the Archon Genomics X Prize competition. The X Prize Foundation, best known for a spaceflight competition, is offering $10 million in prize money to researchers who decipher the complete DNA code from 100 people older than 100. The contest will be judged on accuracy, completeness and the speed and cost of sequencing.

When journalists interview folks 100 and above, most credit their lifestyles, but another researcher, Dr. Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, pointed out that “many in the group studied were obese or overweight. Many were smokers, and few exercised or followed a vegetarian diet. His oldest participant, who died this month just short of her 110th birthday, smoked for 95 years.

My mother will turn 91 next month. Her grandfather, family lore has it, died at 104 after getting kicked by a mule in the hills of his Italian village. She's banking on hanging around a while longer.

How about your genes? Long or short?

(AP file photo of 116-year-old Maria Esther de Capovilla, of Guayaquil, Ecuador, in 2005, then one of the oldest living person on Earth.)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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