Longevity: Which Came First, Behaviour or Genes?

photo credit: ben pollard via photopin cc
photo credit: ben pollard via photopin cc

It’s long been known that having an active lifestyle helps you live longer, but does activity contribute to longevity or is it just an indication you have a longevity gene? Researchers have recently found a link between genetics and longevity that poses a chicken-or-egg question.

Individuals prone to attention-deficiency and risky behaviour tend to participate in more physical and social activities. They’re also more likely to have a variant of a dopamine-receptor gene called DRD4 7R. Dopamine facilitates transmission between neurons and possessors of DRD4 7R experience reduced neuron signal receptivity. They’re more reactive to their environment and less responsive to reward-driven learning.

Now a research team at the University of California at Irvine have found people over the age of 90 are 66% more likely to possess DRD4 7R, and mice without it experience a 7 to 9.7% decrease in longevity. Robert Moyzis, professor of biological chemistry at UC Irvine and one of the team leaders, said,

“While the genetic variant may not directly influence longevity, it is associated with personality traits that have been shown to be important for living a longer, healthier life.”

People who want to live longer and stave off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s might be lucky and already possess DRD4 7R. For those who don’t, it may be enough to act as though they do.


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