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Ageing genes found

Monday February 8th, 2010

Some people age faster than others because of their genes, British researchers reported last night.

Scientists say they have found genes which increase the rate of "biological ageing" - worth up to four years of life.

The discovery could eventually lead to the development of genetic treatments to slow ageing, researchers say.

The ageing genes are linked to compounds called telomeres, which are found on chromosomes and shorten with the age of a cell, according to the research published in Nature Genetics.

Researcher Professor Tim Spector, of King's College, London, said: "What our study suggests is that some people are genetically programmed to age at a faster rate.

"The effect was quite considerable in those with the variant, equivalent to between three to four years of biological ageing as measured by telomere length loss.

"Alternatively genetically susceptible people may age even faster when exposed to proven 'bad' environments for telomeres like smoking, obesity or lack of exercise - and end up several years biologically older or succumbing to more age-related diseases."

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the research, said: "It's not clear yet, but it's possible that shorter telomeres could contribute to some people having increased risk of diseases linked to ageing, such as heart disease.

"Understanding how our cells age is an important step in our quest for better ways to prevent and treat heart disease.

"Perhaps in the future one of the ways we try to reduce the risk of, or treat, heart disease would be to use an "anti-ageing" approach for our arteries."

And Professor Nilesh Saman, of Leicester University, UK, - who worked on the project - added: "In this study what we found was that those individuals carrying a particular genetic variant had shorter telomeres i.e. looked biologically older.

"Given the association of shorter telomeres with age-associated diseases, the finding raises the question whether individuals carrying the variant are at greater risk of developing such diseases."

Nature Genetics February 7 2010

Tags: Genetics | Geriatric Health | Heart Health | UK News

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