The world's oldest people allowed their genomes to be sampled, in order to uncover any secrets behind their remarkable lifespans. Scientists sampled genetic codes from 17 supercentenarians, between the ages of 110 and 116.

Stanford University researchers wanted to study the genome of these people, in order to determine if there is a way of artificially slowing down the aging process.

Seniors marked for this study retained physical and mental health past their tenth decade of life. One of the subjects drove a car until the age of 107, while another worked as a doctor until 103 years of age. They all had records of excellent health, as none of the participants in the study had suffered from heart disease, diabetes, or strokes, all of which frequently afflict seniors. Only one of the subjects had experienced cancer. However strangely, one of the subjects studies possessed a gene variant that leads to a potentially fatal heart condition, but lived to be 100 years old.

Researchers were unable to find any genetic markers between the long-lived participants in the study that could be responsible for their general health and longevity. This means no simple answer to the problem was apparent, dashing hopes of developing a drug to slow down the process of aging.

A total of 74 supercentenarians (those 110 years of age or older) are known to currently be alive around the world, 22 of whom live in the United States. Of the subjects examined in the study, 14 were of Caucasian descent, while one was African-American and two were Hispanic.

Earlier research has identified some genes which code for proteins that could play a role in extending lifespans. One of these, growth factor-1, is similar to insulin, and becomes less pronounced over time, which could act to slow the process of aging, some investigators believe.

Jeanne Calment of France was the longest-living human ever whose age could be verified. Born on February 21, 1875, she passed away on August 4, 1997, at the age of 122 years, 164 days. Sarah Knass holds the American record, living 119 years, 97 days, from 1880 to 1990. Misao Okawa of Japan is the world's oldest living person, born on March 5, 1898.

Further research will attempt to study additional people who have reached the age of 110 or greater, examining the genomes in even greater detail than was carried out during this current study.

Researchers are making the data freely available to the public, in order to assist researchers studying how the world's oldest people live for such a period of time.

Study of the genomes of supercentenarians and what it can tell us about the aging process was published in the online journal PLOS One

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