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Gene testing could tell how long patients will live

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A genetic test to determine if someone is likely to live to 100 could be just around the corner, according to scientists.

Researchers have discovered a set of genetic patterns that closely correlate with people who become centenarians and the data has shown to predict extreme long life with an accuracy of 77%.

A reliable test would be valuable to many companies, including insurance firms, and private enterprise is expected to lead a drive to develop its creation for use in the market place.

While the test may help scientists to further research the factors that lead to long life, helping to improve the health of more of the population, there are some worries about the social implications such as genetic engineering.

A total of 150 genetic variants that were found to be markers were discovered in people who survive to their late 90s or beyond, with remarkably little disability. They appear to exert a powerful effect, counteracting the influence of genes linked to age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease that can shorten life.

The biological pathways involved are complex and still not understood, making the prospect of an “elixir of life” drug cocktail unlikely.

But with the scientific data in the public domain, it may not be long before someone produces a “DNA chip” test for the long-life variants.

A student involved in the study is already working on a scientific website that can be used by anyone with access to their genetic code. It will analyse the genetic data to calculate the chances of longevity, and provide advice on how to interpret the results.

The research is published in the journal Science.

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