Super Gene Spotter

Dr. Nir Barzilai

Einstein Researcher, Nir Barzilai, Tries to Unlock ‘The Biology of Aging’

Lily Port is in the Galapagos Islands. When she returns, she is going to visit her daughter in Texas, then take a vacation to Florida. A few months ago she took
a trip to Austria and Hungary, traveling on the Danube River between Vienna and Budapest. Earlier last year, she journeyed to Australia and Singapore.

After decades of traveling, Port doesn’t seem to have slowed down — even though she’s 97.

Dr. Nir Barzilai

Dr. Nir Barzilai of Yeshiva University's Einstein Medical School

And while it’s easy to attribute Port’s longevity, at least in part, to her active lifestyle and can-do attitude, the genetic study she’s taking part in claims she’d live just as long smoking cigarettes and sitting on her couch.

Port is one of the more than 2,000 participants in Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Longevity Genes Project, run by Dr. Nir Barzilai. The program aims to track those who remain healthy to an extended age — and their descendants — to study what he calls “the biology of aging.” What the study has found is the presence of “super genes” — certain DNA mutations, which are passed from generation to generation — that enable a person to live to an advanced age with few health complications.

Surprising to many, the population that the project studies has been more overweight, exercised less and smoked more than the general public.

“Of course I’m not saying if you smoke and are obese and don’t exercise you’ll live to be 100,” said Barzilai. “But if you have longevity genes, it really doesn’t matter, because you’re going to be protected.” One participant in the study has smoked for 95 years — and she’s a healthy 108. Read the full article in The New York Jewish Week

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