Reaching old age in spite of bad genes

To date, Jeanne Louise Calment is the oldest person ever registered. At the age of 85 she began to fence. At the age of 100, she was still cycling. She died at the age of 122 years and 164 days.


Some people smoke excessively during their entire lives, some drink large quantities of alcohol or have a diet comprising greasy hamburgers - and nevertheless live to see their hundredth birthdays. Others eat healthily and do regular exercise but die in their fifties. Researchers strongly suspect that our genes are responsible for this paradox.

Bart Deplancke, a bioengineer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, is seeking out the genes that are responsible for aging. Today, more than 30 of them have already been identified. The crux of the matter is that each of them presents both useful and harmful variants.

"In the future, a genetic test could be carried out to discover which variants are present," says Deplancke. With this knowledge, we can change our habits or obtain treatment that could affect our health in beneficial ways, despite the bad genes. So one day we can be all become healthy centenarians.

Contact: Bart Deplancke, bart.deplancke(at)epfl.ch, +41 21 693 18 21

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