Gene sequencing X Prize to focus on centenarians

If you have read Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children, you know that one way to improve life expectancy is to concentrate on genetics. Some people live longer because they inherited genes for long life. Some people die young because of their genes. Heinlein’s book is about a society in the future that uses human husbandry to breed long lived humans.

The article in the link below is about a company offering a prize to the first group to sequence the genes of 100 people over the age of 100. It is quite possible that this may be enough data to identify some set of genes that enables people to live longer. If such genes exist, there may be enough people in the sample to statistically determine what sequences in their genome contribute to very long life.

If it is possible to identify a set of longevity genes, then it might be possible, through gene therapy, to apply these genes to humans. It might also be possible to simulate the effect of these genes through other therapies that trigger or suppress the genes that can affect longer life.

Heinlein is consistently about 50 to 75  years ahead of his time. Methuselah’s Children was written in 1941. Like clockwork, one by one, Heinlein’s speculations are becoming history.

Gene sequencing X Prize to focus on centenarians | Reuters.


  1. bob wrote:

    Human evolution is at the top of the bell curve right now. We no longer have the survival of the fittest to glean the lesser amongst us from the human race. After all “all men are created equal” and even the human refuse must be taken care of and allowed to breed like rats. Yes, we are at the top of the evolutionary bell curve and now are well on our way down the other side. We will soon pick up speed – in a few hundred years. Enter genetics. We can save ourselves as a race if we can crack that code and apply it. Hello Mr and Ms smith, welcome to the prenatal genetics clinic. Have you decided on your future babies desired genetic characteristics yet or do you need one of our counselors to advise you? Now there is a cool subject for your next book. Que up a copy of gattica and start writing up a book outline.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 2:46 am | Permalink
  2. Keith wrote:

    “Top of the Bell Curve” is a loaded statement. Evolution does not have a bell curve. It is a continuous flat function and measurements of “improvement” are subjective. Attaching a valuation on the quality of evolution will get you into trouble with all kinds of people, and get you the support of the all wrong kinds of people.

    Evolution is still going on. What you may consider improvements is not what evolution is doing. The major changes to the genome in recent times (last couple of thousand years) has been to select for genes that work against disease. Genes that allow us to live in huge crowded cities are being selected. Perhaps stupidity is being selected as stupid people have more children earlier. If there is genetic component for poverty, that might also be selected for as the poor also out produce other economic groups. Genes that tolerate drug addiction my be “improving” the species.

    The direction of evolution is towards survival of the genes. The genes that survive do not have any good or bad qualities except that they promote survival.

    That being said, the species will not change much until there is significant stress on the survival of the species. The survival genes will just float around the pool because the conditions do not overly penalize reproduction for members who don’t have the genes. When the species is stressed and large numbers begin to die off, then any new genes or fortunate combinations of old genes, will start to emerge and the species will evolve to overcome the stress. It depends on what stresses the species what kinds of genes will be selected.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink