The Amish are well known for their uniquely old-fashioned way of life. They avoid technology and modern conveniences, remain within their close-knit communities, and often choose folk medicine over modern medical care. So why do many Amish people live well into old age?
Well, it turns out that many Amish people have an interesting genetic advantage – they carry a non-functional copy of a gene known as SERPINE1. And those with this gene tend to live a whopping 10 years longer than others in their community. What’s more, they seem to avoid many of the unfortunate side effects of aging, such as diabetes.
“They don’t take advantage of modern medicine in general, so the fact that the carriers have a median lifespan of nearly 85 is rather remarkable,” Dr Douglas Vaughan, a cardiovascular specialist at Northwestern University, told The Independent.
People have long been searching for the secrets to better aging and longer life. Today, it seems that genetics might provide us with a brand new – and slightly more scientific – fountain of youth.
The team found that people with the SERPINE1 mutation on average have 10 percent longer telomeres. Telomeres are DNA strands found at the ends of chromosomes, protecting them from deterioration. Previous research has shown that when we age, our telomeres seem to shorten. More research, however, needs to be done to determine if there is a link between SERPINE1 and telomere length.
But, there’s a catch. Whilst people with just one copy of SERPINE1 reap the benefits of longer life, people who have two copies aren’t nearly so lucky. In fact, when injured, they suffer from excessive bleeding.
Interestingly though, if having two copies of the gene didn’t cause this unfortunate side effect, the mutation might not have been studied and scientists wouldn’t have discovered the unusual benefits of having just one.
Meanwhile, if you’re hoping that you might just have a copy of this miraculous gene, your chances are pretty slight. Whilst 43 out of the 177 Amish people tested in the study had the mutation, only about one in 70,000 non-Amish people do.
The likely reason for the unusual prevalence of the gene amongst the Amish is that these people tend to stay within their tight communities and share a higher level of relatedness to one another than the general population.
But luckily for us, knowing about the advantage of a single copy of SERPINE1 could come in pretty handy for researchers trying to work out how best to slow down the aging process and give people longer life.
[H/T: The Independent]