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Archive for the tag “aging”

23andme seeks genetic markers for healthy aging

I recently blogged about the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which tries to identify factors predictive of happy aging. Well, just yesterday I read an interesting blog post at Genetic Future describing how 23andme is now looking to identify (genetic) factors for healthy aging.

Apparently, 23andme offered free genetic scans to participants in the Palo Alto Senior Games, a big sporting event for people of age 50 and up. A spokesman for the company told the Palo Alto Online that they want to use the genetic scans to try to find genetic factors underlying healthy aging. The participants in the Palo Alto Senior Games are, almost by definition, healthy seniors, and 23andme are looking to recruit (or already succeeded in recruiting – it wasn’t completely clear to me from the blog post) 4500 individuals, which is a pretty sizable cohort.

This is not the first large-scale recruitment drive from 23andme targeting a specific group – they previously announced a Parkinson’s project with 3000 participants. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of these projects.

Harvard Study of Adult Development

In this blog, and, I guess, in general, I am mostly concerned with large, broad datasets. But sometimes, really narrow and deep datasets  can be very interesting. A case in point is the Harvard Study of Adult Development, led by George Vaillant, where two groups of men Рone consisting of Harvard graduates and the other of men from inner-city neighborhoods in Boston Рhave been studied during 68 years (!) from adolescence up to now.

You should go to an article in The Atlantic describing the study right now and read it – it’s fascinating. What I took away from the article is how variable a person’s fortunes are and how weak the link often is between external success and inner state of mind. The aim of the study is identify predictors of healthy and happy aging. The subjects completed questionnaires about there life situation every two years, and in addition many of them were interviewed in depth at various stages of their lives.

According to the Atlantic article, basically the only strong predictor for a happy old age seems to be having good friends and a good relationship with your family (especially siblings). Granted, the subjects were not exactly a random sample of the population – one of the persons in the Harvard cohort eventually became president of the United States! (Read the article to find out who it was.) Still, a very interesting study.

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