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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fountain of youth genes found, say scientists

LONDON - Researchers have pinpointed eight genetic variations that control the production of a crucial hormone linked to old age as well as diseases of the elderly.

The genes control levels of the steroid dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), one of the most abundant in the body and vital to many key functions.

Levels of DHEAS are known to peak in our mid to late 20s and decline as we age. At age 85, the body contains about 5 per cent of its peak amount.

A group of scientists from across the globe analysed the DHEAS levels and 2.5 million genetic variants in 14,846 people across Europe and the United States.

The results, published in the PLoS Genetics journal, identified eight common genes that controlled the concentration of DHEAS, with some of those genes associated with ageing and age-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and lymphoma.

Researchers say their findings provide the first genetic evidence that DHEAS can cause common age-related diseases or a decreased lifespan.

Supplements of the steroid have already been commercially available for the past few years.

Dr Guangju Zhai, the study author from King's College, London, said that while taking it could theoretically slow down the ageing process, it was too early to say for sure how effective it could be.

"It is hoped that we could slow down the ageing process or the affect of age-related diseases through manipulation or gene therapy," he said.

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