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Saturday 18 November 2017

DNA helps to predict how long we live for

DNA can help predict how long an individual will live, new research suggests.

Scientists studying zebra finches found the best indicator of longevity came from examining a piece of DNA called a telomere when the birds were 25 days old.

Telomeres occur at the ends of the chromosomes, which contain the genetic code.

They are caps on the end of chromosomes that protect them from damage and function a bit like the plastic caps at the end of shoelaces.

This method of DNA protection is the same for most animals and plants, including humans, and the eventual loss of the telomere cap is known to cause cells to malfunction.

For the first time, scientists have now measured telomere length in the same individuals throughout their lifespan from early life onwards.

Researchers, led by a team at the University of Glasgow, studied 99 zebra finches whose lifespan ranged from 210 days to almost nine years.

They took blood samples at intervals to measure telomere length. The scientists found that the best predictor of longevity was telomere length at 25 days.

Professor Pat Monaghan, who led the team, said: "Our study shows the great importance of processes acting early in life. We now need to know more about how early life conditions can influence the pattern of telomere loss."

hnews@herald.ie

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