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In The Genes? Searching for Methuselah

Anthony Mutschler, 95, and his wife, Laura, 80

Anthony Mutschler, 95, and his wife, Laura, 80, are participants in the National Institute on Aging's (NIA) Long Life Family Study (LLFS), which examines what factors contribute to long, healthy lives.
Photo courtesy of NIH/NIA

NIA Studies Long-Lived Families for Clues to Aging Well

Back in biblical times, Methuselah reputedly lived to be 969 years old.

But today it's rare for anyone to reach 100 or more, especially in good health. And researchers are finding that those who do aren't just lucky. They often have company… in their very own families.

To find out what makes these people so unique, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has begun the Long Life Family Study (LLFS), a five-year, $18 million effort to learn more about the genes, lifestyle or other factors that contribute to long, healthy lives.

Winifred K. Rossi, deputy director of NIA's Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology Program and director of the LLFS, says, "We want to learn why these exceptional families age so well."

Inaugurated last July, the LLFS is recruiting families to participate. While most studies typically look at health problems, Rossi says the LLFS is unique because, by following exceptional families over time, the researchers are focusing on what protects against disease and disability.

Members of the extended Mutschler family

Members of the extended Mutschler family in this photo range in age from 49 to the eldest, Alberta (seated, second from right) who is 101 years of age.
Photo courtesy of NIH/NIA

"We want to understand more about their health, lifestyle and genes," Rossi explains. "We hope that the LLFS will identify factors that can help other people live as healthy as possible, as long as possible."

How you can participate

If you are 80 years of age or older and have at least one living brother or sister also aged 80 or older, please go to the study web site http://www.longlifefamilystudy.org/ or make a toll-free call to one of the recruitment offices listed below to enroll in the LLFS:

  • Boston University: 1-888-333-6327
  • University of Pittsburgh:1-800-872-3653
  • Columbia University, New York: 1-800-304-4317
    After signing up, you will be called for more information about your family. Researchers may follow these calls with home visits to record your physical measurements and take blood for analysis.

"We want to enroll as many families with long lived members as possible. The more families we have, the better chance we have of finding robust results," emphasizes Rossi.

Winter 2007 Issue: Volume 2 Number 1 Pages 20 - 21