In a study published online in the Journal Science, scientists at Boston University discovered how to predict with 77 percent accuracy if someone will live to be extraordinarily old.
In the new study, researchers looked at genetic markers called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, in 1,055 centenarians and 1,267 younger people, all of European descent. The scientists found 150 genetic SNP variants linked to extreme longevity.
Initially, the team identified only 33 SNPs found more often in people aged 90 to 114 years but not in a control group made up of people who will presumably live an average lifespan.
The scientists felt that more research was necessary, so they devised a different statistical method to identify additional SNPs that would improve the team's ability to predict longevity.
The team tested their predictions on a separate group of centenarians and controls. With the 150 SNPs, the researchers could correctly predict who was a centenarian 77 percent of the time.
Scientists say the gene clusters seem to trump disease-causing genes, but exercise and healthy living still play a big role. Researchers have long known that long life runs in families, but this is the first time they've had proof that it's a genetic trait.
Only one in 6,000 people reaches the century mark.