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Longevity Genes—Who Wants to Know? July 5, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Technology.

Scientists have apparently uncovered a cluster of “longetivity genes” which protect some people from succumbing to a variety of diseases.

When it becomes affordable to have one’s genome sequenced, perhaps in a few years, a longevity test, though not a foolproof one, may be feasible, if a new claim holds up. Scientists studying the genomes of centenarians in New England say they have identified a set of genetic variants that predicts extreme longevity with 77 percent accuracy.

The centenarians had just as many disease-associated variants as shorter-lived mortals, so their special inheritance must be genes that protect against disease, said the authors of the study, a team led by Paola Sebastiani and Thomas T. Perls of Boston University. Their report appears in Thursday’s issue of Science.

The finding, if confirmed, would complicate proposals for predicting someone’s liability to disease based on disease-causing variants in the person’s genome, since much would depend on whether or not an individual possessed protective genes as well.

This discovery should make it possible to tell individuals the odds of them making it to 100 years old.

Would it be good to know your odds or not?  The answer would seem to be a matter for individuals to answer.

Many people say they would not want access to this information. They prefer the uncertainty, the adventure of not knowing when they are likely to die, and they would experience the demand to organize their lives around knowledge of such probabilities as  a burden. Others would want this information to help them plot out a strategy for living past 100.

So what are you—an adventurer or a planner?

Insurance companies will no doubt be very interested in this information and adjust rates accordingly. Should insurance companies mandate that individuals acquire such a test?  If you are an adventurer it would be an egregious infringement of personal liberty to require individuals to have access to this information.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com



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