Monday March 25, 2019

Your Genes May Not Help You Live Long

The answer might lie in assortative mating. People tend to select partners with traits like their own -- in this case, how long they live, they explained

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Gene triggering antibiotic reaction risk identified. Pixabay

Although long life tends to run in families, genes has far less influence on life span than previously thought, according to a new analysis of an aggregated set of family trees of more than 400 million people.

The study suggests that the heritability of life span is well below past estimates, which failed to account for our tendency to select partners with similar traits to our own.

“We can potentially learn many things about the biology of ageing from human genetics, but if the heritability of life span is low, it tempers our expectations about what types of things we can learn and how easy it will be,” said lead author Graham Ruby, from Calico Life Sciences — a US-based research and development company.

“It helps contextualise the questions that scientists studying ageing can effectively ask,” she added

Heritability measures how much life span can be explained by genetic differences, excluding differences like lifestyle, sociocultural factors and accidents.

While previous estimates of human life span heritability have ranged from around 15 to 30 percent, in the new study it was likely no more than seven per cent, perhaps even lower.

For the study, published in the journal Genetics, the team used online genealogy resource with subscriber-generated public family trees representing six billion ancestors.

Each of them was connected to another by either a parent-child or a spouse-spouse relationship. Pixabay

Removing redundant entries and those from people who were still living, they stitched the remaining pedigrees together included more than 400 million people, largely Americans of European descent.

Each of them was connected to another by either a parent-child or a spouse-spouse relationship.

They focused on relatives who were born across the 19th and early 20th centuries, and noted that the life span of spouses tended to be correlated, more similar than in siblings of opposite gender.

Comparing different types of in-laws, they found that siblings-in-law and first-cousins-in-law had correlated life spans, despite not being blood relatives and not generally sharing households.

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The finding that a person’s sibling’s spouse’s sibling or their spouse’s sibling’s spouse had a similar life span to their own made it clear that something else was at play, the researchers said.

The answer might lie in assortative mating. People tend to select partners with traits like their own — in this case, how long they live, they explained. (IANS)

Next Story

To Ensure Transparency, WHO Panel Aims for Registry of All Human Gene-Editing Research

The WHO panel's statement said any human gene-editing work should be done for research only, should not be done in human clinical trials, and should be conducted transparently.

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A researcher works with embryos at a lab in Shenzhen in southern China's Guandong province, Oct. 9, 2018. An expert committee Tuesday called for the U.N. health agency to create a global registry of scientists working on gene editing. VOA

It would be irresponsible for any scientist to conduct human gene-editing studies in people, and a central registry of research plans should be set up to ensure transparency, World Health Organization experts said Tuesday.

After its first two-day meeting in Geneva, the WHO panel of gene-editing experts — which was established in December after a Chinese scientist said he had edited the genes of twin babies — said it had agreed on a framework for setting future standards.

It said a central registry of all human genome-editing research was needed “in order to create an open and transparent database of ongoing work,” and asked the WHO to start setting up such a registry immediately.

“The committee will develop essential tools and guidance for all those working on this new technology to ensure maximum benefit and minimal risk to human health,” Soumya Swamanathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, said in a statement.

FILE - He Jiankui, left, and Zhou Xiaoqin work a computer at a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province, Oct. 10, 2018. Chinese scientist He says he helped make the world's first genetically edited babies.
– He Jiankui, left, and Zhou Xiaoqin work a computer at a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China’s Guangdong province, Oct. 10, 2018. Chinese scientist He says he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies. VOA

A Chinese scientist last year claimed to have edited the genes of twin baby girls.

News of the births prompted global condemnation, in part because it raised the ethical specter of so-called “designer babies” — in which embryos can be genetically modified to produce children with desirable traits.

Top scientists and ethicists from seven countries called last week for a global moratorium on gene editing of human eggs, sperm or embryos that would result in such genetically-altered babies — saying this “could have permanent and possibly harmful effects on the species.”

The WHO panel’s statement said any human gene-editing work should be done for research only, should not be done in human clinical trials, and should be conducted transparently.

genes
After its first two-day meeting in Geneva, the WHO panel of gene-editing experts — which was established in December after a Chinese scientist said he had edited the genes of twin babies — said it had agreed on a framework for setting future standards. Pixabay

“It is irresponsible at this time for anyone to proceed with clinical applications of human germline genome editing.”

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The WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, welcomed the panel’s initial plans. “Gene editing holds incredible promise for health, but it also poses some risks, both ethically and medically,” he said in a statement.

The committee said it aims over the next two years to produce “a comprehensive governance framework” for national, local and international authorities to ensure human genome-editing science progresses within agreed ethical boundaries. (VOA)