If you live to 100, as roughly one in every 10,000 people do, you will want both your mind and body intact. A certain gene seems to help accomplish just that. Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his colleagues examined 158 elderly people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Centenarians who passed a 30-question test were two to three times as likely to have a common variant of the so-called CETP gene as those who did not. Those between 75 and 85 who passed the test were five times as likely. The CETP gene variant leads to larger than normal cholesterol particles in the blood, their size perhaps making them less likely to lodge in the lining of blood vessels, a process that boosts the risk of heart attack and stroke. The findings appear in the December 26 Neurology.
This article was originally published with the title "A Gene for Aging Smartly" in Scientific American 296, 3, 30 (March 2007)