Scientists Find Genetic Indicator of Longevity
Scientists say the lengths of tiny pieces of DNA called telomeres indicate whether a young creature is likely to live long into old age.
Everything that is made up of living cells contains chromosomes: the genetic code that makes us what we are. At the ends of each chromosome lie the telomeres. They have been likened to the caps on the ends of shoelaces – they stop things from unravelling. Over time they wear down – and when they do, the DNA they protect is compromised and the cell can malfunction or die.
To find out if longer telomeres were reliable indicators of longer life, researchers collected blood samples from a group of 99 zebra finches and the lengths of their telomeres measured. They were tested again throughout their lifetimes. In every case the longest lived birds had the longest telomeres, but the best predictor of lifespan was the length of the telomeres at just 25 days old.