Genetic determinants of human health span and life span: Progress and new opportunities

George M. Martin, Aviv Bergman, Nir Barzilai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


We review three approaches to the genetic analysis of the biology and pathobiology of human aging. The first and so far the best-developed is the search for the biochemical genetic basis of varying susceptibilities to major geriatric disorders. These include a range of progeroid syndromes. Collectively, they tell us much about the genetics of health span. Given that the major risk factor for virtually all geriatric disorders is biological aging, they may also serve as markers for the study of intrinsic biological aging. The second approach seeks to identify allelic contributions to exceptionally long life spans. While linkage to a locus on Chromosome 4 has not been confirmed, association studies have revealed a number of significant polymorphisms that impact upon late-life diseases and life span. The third approach remains theoretical. It would require longitudinal studies of large numbers of middle-aged sib-pairs who are extremely discordant or concordant for their rates of decline in various physiological functions. We can conclude that there are great opportunities for research on the genetics of human aging, particularly given the huge fund of information on human biology and pathobiology, and the rapidly developing knowledge of the human genome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1121-1130
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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