Non-coding genomic regions possessing enhancer and silencer potential are associated with healthy aging and exceptional survival

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We have completed a genome-wide linkage scan for healthy aging using data collected from a family study, followed by fine-mapping by association in a separate population, the first such attempt reported. The family cohort consisted of parents of age 90 or above and their children ranging in age from 50 to 80. As a quantitative measure of healthy aging, we used a frailty index, called FI34, based on 34 health and function variables. The linkage scan found a single significant linkage peak on chromosome 12. Using an independent cohort of unrelated nonagenarians, we carried out a fine-scale association mapping of the region suggestive of linkage and identified three sites associated with healthy aging. These healthy-aging sites (HASs) are located in intergenic regions at 12q13-14. HAS-1 has been previously associated with multiple diseases, and an enhancer was recently mapped and experimentally validated within the site. HAS-2 is a previously uncharacterized site possessing genomic features suggestive of enhancer activity. HAS-3 contains features associated with Polycomb repression. The HASs also contain variants associated with exceptional longevity, based on a separate analysis. Our results provide insight into functional genomic networks involving non-coding regulatory elements that are involved in healthy aging and longevity.

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