Race is on to sequence centenarian DNA
Today we welcome guest blogger Hanah Cho, a business reporter at The Sun. She attended the Gerontological Society of America conference as a 2011-2012 Metlife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, a project of GSA and New America Media.
Do you have a relative or know someone who’s 100 years old or older?
A unique scientific competition is seeking centenarians from around the globe who are willing to donate their DNA.
The Archon Genomics X Prize will award $10 million to the first team that can sequence human genomes of 100 centenarians accurately and economically in a 30-day competition that begins in January.
The goal is to develop a “medical-grade” genome standard that can be used for broad clinical applications to improve patient diagnosis and treatment, said Dr. Larry Kedes, the scientific director and senior advisor for the X Prize Foundation, at a news conference this week at the Gerontological Society of America meeting.
Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University School of Medicine, who has been studying centenarians since 1995, says they are a “important and interesting model for healthier aging.”
Consider that among centenarians, the average age they experience an onset of a disability is 93, Perls says. And if they are afflicted with age-related diseases, they deal with them much better than the general population, Perls added.
Moreover, the closer these centenarians get to 105 to 110 years old, the “more you compress the time you are sick towards the end of life,” Perls said.
By sequencing the genomes of 100 centenarians, researchers say they have an opportunity to identify and gain insights into longevity genes.
“If we understand how people age slower and we have strategies to delay it, we’ll have a huge impact on the onset of age-related diseases and quality of life,” said Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute of Aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
There is also a Maryland connection to this competition.
J. Craig Venter Institute, headed by the namesake gene researcher, is based in Rockville and is a partner in the competition.
So is Gaithersburg-based EdgeBio, a life technology and DNA sequencing company. The X Prize has also created an online community of centenarians who are sharing their remarkable stories.
Maybe there is Maryland-based centenarian out there?