Medicine

Amish gene can make them live 10 years longer and avoid diabetes

Amish gene can make them live 10 years longer and avoid diabetes

They found that around a third of the men carried a non-functioning gene which helped them live an extra 10 years on average.

Researchers in the United States and Japan are now testing an experimental drug that aims to recreate the effect of this mutation in people, in the hopes it may protect against age-related illnesses and boost longevity.

A genetically and culturally isolated group of "Amish" people in Berne, Indiana, US, were found to be the sole carriers of the gene mutation.

As if that weren't enough, they also had significantly less diabetes, lower fasting insulin levels and more flexible blood vessels.

A composite measure that reflects vascular age also is lower - indicative of retained flexibility in blood vessels in the carriers of the mutation - than those who do not have the mutation, the research also found. "That played out in them having a longer lifespan". Telomere length has always been associated with aging because they shorten every time a cell divides, and shorter telomeres are related to advanced aging.

A cardiologist, Vaughan has been studying the plasminogen activator inhibitor or PAI-1, a protein part of a molecular fingerprint that is related cell senescence or aging.

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To test whether the benefits of lower levels of the PAI-1 protein might be transferrable to those without this genetic mutation, Northwestern is working with Tohoku University in Japan to test an oral drug that would mimic the mutation's effects. "It's a desirable form of longevity".

"The findings astonished us because of the consistency of the anti-aging benefits across multiple body systems", said Dr. Douglas Vaughan, the study's lead author, adding that not only did those with the mutation live longer but they were also healthier.

The next step for researchers is to see if drugs that target PAI-1 might be developed that could extend the lifespans of the rest of us, too.

As for whether his team plans to continue studying this unique Amish community, Vaughan said, "We hope to be able to revisit them regularly and do additional testing to look at the velocity of aging in this kindred, and unearth more details about the protective effect of this mutation". Northwestern is in the process of applying for a trial that would test the effects of this drug on patients with Type 2 diabetes, "possibly to begin within the next six months", according to the news release.

The mutation was introduced into this particular community by farmers from Switzerland who moved into the area, the researchers explained. Outside of Berne, Amish communities don't have the mutation.

People with the mutation live to be 85 on average, significantly longer than their predicted average lifespan of 71 for Amish in general and which has not changed much over the last century.


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