DNA Day experts answer your questions about genetics and life expectancy

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Do genes determine how long we live, or program us to live for a certain time? Comment CurioCity 18 April 2013 Biology Tags: DNA Structure, DNA Transcription, DNA Day Bookmark Biology Question I heard that certain genes determine how long we live or program us to live for such a time. If there is a gene that controls our life span, why is it that we are predetermined to die after a certain time?

Life expectancy is not controlled by a single gene but is the result of complex interactions between genes and environment.

- Answer provided by Dr. Sylvie Cloutier

Is it possible that genetics will be able to make us live significantly longer lives?

I think our understanding of genetics and a number of other factors ARE contributing to significantly longer life spans... selective breeding experiments have shown that it is possible to select for longer life span in model organisms like Drosophila, but this often comes with tradeoffs for other fitness traits.

- Answer provided by Dr. Robert Hanner

In the future is extending life to immortality or long lasting youth using cancer cells adept regenerative properties a distinct possibility or just a fantasy?

I don't think we can safely say that immortality is impossible. In my opinion, it may end up looking a lot different than we imagine though - we may not occupy the same "body" and we may figure out how to transfer our consciousness to a different set of cells. So, I'd say: "Not a fantasy, but don't count on it anytime soon".

- Answer provided by Dr. Sean Myles

Is there a gene for life expectancy?

A trait like life expectancy is complex and as such, there would not be "a" gene for it. Life expectancy is the sum of your genetic and its interaction with your environment (life style (stress, health, smoking...), environmental conditions in which you live).

- Answer provided by Dr. Sylvie Cloutier


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