Genetics has limited influence on longevity

Genetics has limited influence on longevity

Although long life tends to run in families, genetics has far less influence on life span than previously thought, according to a new analysis of more than 400 million people. The results suggest 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. The research was published in GENETICS, a journal of the Genetics Society of America.

Starting from 54 million subscriber-generated public family trees representing six billion ancestors, Ancestry removed redundant entries and those from people who were still living, stitching the remaining pedigrees together. Before sharing the data with the Calico research team, Ancestry stripped away all identifiable information from the pedigrees, leaving only the year of birth, year of death, place of birth (to the resolution of state within the US and country outside the US), and familial connections that make up the tree structure itself.

They ended up with a set of pedigrees that included over 400 million people–largely Americans of European descent–each connected to another by either a parent-child or a spouse-spouse relationship. The team was then able to estimate heritability from the tree by examining the similarity of life span between relatives.

Using an approach that combines mathematical and statistical modeling, the researchers focused on relatives who were born across the 19th and early 20th centuries, finding heritability estimates for siblings and first cousins to be roughly the same as previously reported. But, as was also observed in some of the previous studies, they noted that the life span of spouses tended to be correlated–they were more similar, in fact, than in siblings of opposite gender.

Source: Family tree of 400 million people shows genetics has limited influence on longevity