Amish carriers of a gene mutation live about 10 years longer on average than others in their community without the mutation.
They also appear to be “completely protected from the development of diabetes”, according to the study’s lead researcher.
This story is going around the internet like gangbusters now. The discovery was made by scientists from Northwestern University:
The first genetic mutation that appears to protect against multiple aspects of biological aging in humans has been discovered in an extended family of Old Order Amish living in the vicinity of Berne, Indiana, report Northwestern Medicine scientists.
Indiana Amish kindred (immediate family and relatives) with the mutation live more than 10 percent longer and have 10 percent longer telomeres (a protective cap at the end of our chromosomes that is a biological marker of aging) compared to Amish kindred members who don’t have the mutation, reports the new Northwestern study.
Amish with this mutation also have significantly less diabetes and lower fasting insulin levels. 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 don’t have the mutation, the research also found.
The researchers’ paper can be found here.
The key element here is a protein called PAI-1 (plasminogen activator inhibitor), described as part of a “molecular fingerprint” connected to aging. Amish with the mutation have about half the amount of PAI-1 as those without.
There are often claims made about Amish having various sorts of built-in health advantages, some of which are dubious. But this seems to be the real deal – and potentially a pretty big deal.
A Japanese team has developed an experimental drug that “recreates the effects of the mutation” and is currently testing it. Dr. Douglas Vaughan, lead author of the paper, will seek to test the drug in the US next year.
Dr. Vaughan had this to say on the importance of the discovery:
“The findings astonished us because of the consistency of the anti-aging benefits across multiple body systems.”
“For the first time we are seeing a molecular marker of aging (telomere length), a metabolic marker of aging (fasting insulin levels) and a cardiovascular marker of aging (blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness) all tracking in the same direction in that these individuals were generally protected from age-related changes,” Vaughan said.
The researchers tested 177 members of the Berne (Adams County) Amish population in 2015.
Amish were especially interested in participating because members of the community have suffered from a bleeding disorder linked to a lack of PAI-1.
It’s described as a “private mutation” found only in this kindred group, according to Vaughan.
“That played out in them having a longer lifespan,” said Vaughan. “Not only do they live longer, they live healthier. It’s a desirable form of longevity. It’s their ‘health span.’”
Could this be one of the most important discoveries ever in terms of extending human lifespan and quality of life?
I am not qualified to say. But going by the study results, Vaughan’s statements, and the media reaction, maybe so.