In Brief A Northwestern University team discovered that members of a small Indiana Amish community that carried a copy of a genetic mutation lived 10 percent longer, as well as lower incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The secret seems to lie in a mutation of the gene SERPINE1, which allows carriers to live, on average, 10 percent longer than others.
Douglas Vaughan, a medical researcher and the chair of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, became interested in the Old Order Amish community because they had a high incidence of a rare bleeding disorder, caused by a mutation on both copies of the SERPINE1 gene.
Vaughan’s team found that those with a mutation on only one of these copies didn’t have the bleeding disorder.
Just as carriers of the sickle-cell anemia gene have protection against malaria, people with a single copy of the SERPINE1 mutation appeared to gain advantages from it: they had a longer average lifespan and 10 percent longer telomeres, the small protective cap of repeated nucleotides at the ends of chromosomes.
Those with a single copy of the mutation also had a lower incidence of diabetes, lower insulin levels after fasting, slightly lower blood pressure, and possibly more flexible blood vessels.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those with a single copy of SERPINE1 mutation also had lower levels of the clotting protein PAI-1.