The results of the study indicate that several disease variants may be absent in centenarians versus the general population.

Previous work indicated that centenarians have health and diet habits similar to the average person, suggesting that factors in their genetic make-up could contribute to successful ageing. However, prior genetic studies have identified only a single gene (APOE, known to be involved in Alzheimer's disease) that was different in centenarians versus normal agers, the study said.

To find the longevity genes, Kristen Fortney from Stanford University, and colleagues first derived a new statistical method (termed 'informed GWAS') that takes advantage of knowledge from 14 diseases to narrow the search genes associated with longevity.

Using iGWAS, the scientists found the longevity genes associated with physiological mechanisms for successful ageing. The incidence of nearly all diseases increases with age, so understanding genetic factors for successful ageing could have a large impact on health, the researchers said.

The findings appeared in the journal PLOS Genetics.

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