Super-centenarians are very rare individuals. They have lived to at least 110 years of age. In the United States, there are approximately 54,000 centenarians (people who are 100 years of age or older). Only about a dozen of these centenarians, however, appear to make it to 110 years old.1,2
Worldwide, only about 70 individuals have been verified to be at least 110 years of age or older.2 Surviving decades longer than their peers — often in far better health — super-centenarians may hold the keys to protection from disease, decline, and early death.
As you read their individual stories you cannot help but notice that many of these extremely long-lived individuals did not take the special precautions that you, I, and other readers of this magazine follow to maximize our health. Yet many of them went their entire lives without illness, and some without ever seeing a doctor.
Sadly, most of us are not as lucky to have been born with such “super” genes.
The Life Extension Foundation® is helping to fund an unprecedented project to identify those genetic variations that protect super-centenarians from disease and allow them to live nearly perfectly healthy lives until just shortly before their deaths. The objective is to enable scientists to create therapies that will bring the extraordinary protective powers of super-centenarians to everyone.
In May of 2011, researchers James Clement and Parijata Mackey left for Europe on a journey, partially funded by the Life Extension Foundation® , to study how super-centenarians avoid illnesses and live long, healthy lives.
These two researchers had attended multiple scientific conferences on aging. It was apparent that most life span research was done on short-lived species, such as C. elegans, drosophila, and mice. Human studies were largely limited to cells grown in Petri dishes, rather than studies of cells in-vivo. At the time, no one was actively collecting and analyzing large numbers of genetic and molecular profiles of humans who lived to 110 or older.
Before their journey, James and Parijata surveyed the existing scientific literature for studies on long-lived humans. Special focus was paid to research conducted by Boston University’s Tom Perls and Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Nir Barzilai. Drs. Perls and Barzilai had conducted extensive demographic and some single nucleotide polymorphism and genome-wide association studies on why these individuals lived so long without diseases.
Nir Barzilai speculated that long-lived individuals possessed genes that protected them from diseases, but neither he nor Tom Perls had been able to uncover these genes. Based on the research they had seen, James and Parijata decided that it was important to focus on individuals over the age of 105, especially men, on the basis that individuals who lived to this age would likely have these protective genes, if such existed. For the PDF of this issue and to read the rest of this article click Life Extension Magazine May 2013.