Edinburgh scientists have developed a DNA risk score system to predict how long a person could live. The research carried out at the Usher Institute of Edinburgh University involved an analysis of 500,000 DNA samples from European ancestors in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.
While most people had about the same life expectancy, the top and bottom 10 percent of the population can expect to live for five more (or fewer) years based on DNA alone.
“But the overall shape of our findings are that the main way that genetics seems to affect how long you live is through susceptibility to heart disease. If you’re carrying variants that protect you from heart disease, they seem to be the things that make the biggest difference.”
While it is still early days, analyses such as this could one day enable the genetic susceptibility of a person to certain conditions to be more accurately determined to the extent that preventive action could be taken-potentially saving thousands of lives.
However, in some cases, such as predicting the susceptibility of a person to an incurable degenerative disease, it is unclear whether such knowledge is beneficial or harmful.
“So you’re giving yourself a piece of information that you might argue is just a fact, but it’s a fact that might worry you and that worry is not likely to be very productive in that there’s not much you can do about it,” said Dr Joshi.