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November 15, 2013

Researchers are studying the genetic factors that keep a small percentage of us extremely healthy, well into old age.



The secrets of healthy aging. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Jupiter Images)

While most doctors see sick people, Scripps Research Institute geneticist Eric Topol sees only the healthiest of the healthy: people over 80 years old who have never had any sort of chronic disease.

ERIC TOPOL (Scripps Research Institute):

It’s actually quite exciting to find them and see how remarkably functional they are.


He’s looking for the secret of their good health in their genes. Surprisingly, he’s found that many of them have genes that put them at risk for heart attack, dementia and other illnesses.


So the fact that many people never manifest these conditions means that there’s something else going on in their genome to protect them.

He and his team have found modifier genes that protect some people against these deadly conditions. The goal is to learn how the protective genes work and develop therapies so that everyone can enjoy the health benefits seen in the lucky few participating in the study. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.