Humanity has long searched for a way to cheat death and Dutch woman Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper did just that for 115 years until she passed away back in 2004. She thought it was all the fish she used to eat but scientists who have been studying her genes since have finally presented their findings and say that Andel-Schipper’s unique genetic blueprint was really the cause of her long life and that it could serve to help others live longer as well.
LiveScience.com has the story, explaining Dutch researcher Henne Holstege of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam presented the information at the annual meeting of the International Congress of Human Genetics in Montreal. Andel-Schipper not only lived with great mental clarity into old age but also managed to beat breast cancer when she was 100.
“Van Andel-Schipper was robust and didn’t enter a nursing home until age 105,” says the site. “Researchers grew intrigued by her mental acuity during her later years. Her performance in mental tests at age 113 was above average for a healthy adult between the ages of 60 and 75. Ultimately van Andel-Schipper died of stomach cancer, which is ironic because this type of cancer is rare today but was common in 1890, the year she was born.”
The site also says that no other centenarian has been studied as thoroughly. Andel-Schipper was kind enough to agree donate her body to science when she was just 82, meaning scientists had a decent amount of time to study her genes.
“Upon van Andel-Schipper’s death, an autopsy of her brain showed no signs of even minor dementia, previously thought to be inevitable for the elderly,” says the site. “Doctors also found no sign of plaque in her arteries. While it is true that van Andel-Schipper’s favorite fish, herring, contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, doctors had never seen such a pristine vascular system in the elderly.”
“Holstege said she hopes van Andel-Schipper’s unique genetic blueprint, called a genome, can serve as a reference for future studies of longevity genes,” but that her and her colleagues are still in the early stages of analysis. “Doctors hope that a better understanding of longevity genes can lead to medicines that can suppress the genes that cause disease and activate the genes that promote long life.”
Most science amazes me but a possible pill to suppress genes that cause disease is huge.
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