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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU Study Finds Role of Genes is Greater as People Live to Older Ages

Genes appear to play a stronger role in longevity in people living to extreme older ages, according to a study of siblings led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

The study, published online in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, found that for people who live to 90 years old, the chance of their siblings also reaching age 90 is about 1.7 times greater than for the average person born around the same time. But for people who survive to age 95, the chance of a sibling living to the same age is 3.5 times greater — and for those who live to 100, the chance of a sibling reaching the same age grows to about nine times greater.

At 105 years old, the chance that a sibling will attain the same age is 35 times greater than for people born around the same time — although the authors note that such extreme longevity among siblings is very rare.

“These much higher relative chances of survival likely reflect different and more potent genetic contributions to the rarity of survival being studied, and strongly suggest that survival to age 90 and survival to age 105 are dramatically different phenotypes or conditions, with very different underlying genetic influences,” the authors conclude.

The study, led by Dr. Paola Sebastiani, professor of biostatistics, analyzed survival data of the families of 1,500 participants in the New England Centenarian Study, the largest study of centenarians and their family members in the world, based at Boston Medical Center. Among those families, the research team looked at more than 1,900 sibling relationships that contained at least one person reaching the age of 90.

To read more about the study, go to: http://www.bu.edu/sph/?p=65587