A Gene For Longevity? Think Jaws Instead

Every time I see a study about longevity, I can't help but to chuckle inside. We've been searching forever for the fountain of youth, and characterizing genes that determine how long you'll live is just another high-tech version of our quest. The New York Times reported on a study out of Boston University that found a set of genes that can predict extreme longevity with 77% accuracy. I have to admit—I'm a bit skeptical about any study what promises potential cures or longer life based on genetic research.

Yes, there's been significant strides in our knowledge and understanding of our genes, but even the most experienced researchers admit that they've hit a wall in terms of actually making significant differences in improving people's lives using gene therapy. Sequencing the entire human genome was like going to the moon—it was an incredible accomplishment, but now what? The benefits of gene sequencing will probably show up indirectly, where the techniques that are learned will be incorporated into other scientific areas.

One thing that I've noticed whenever I see patients in their 90s or above is how wide their jaw are, with generally good dentition. Typically, these people grew up eating naturally, and in undeveloped parts of the world, where they didn't have access to modern, Western diets. It's amazing how many of these people are on minimal to no medications, and live healthy, vibrant, independent lives. I'm sure that if they can find a gene for large jaws, then that will be found to correlate with longevity even more significantly.

The next time you see a centenarian, take a look at his or her jaws. You'll see what I mean.

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