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Gene Makes Us Live Longer, but at a Cost

Posted by bmagnus On December - 4 - 2009

Research from the University of Southern California suggests that a key to humans living longer than other primates is in the genes. However, these same genes that let us live longer also make us more susceptible to cancer, heart disease, and dementia.

Specifically, there are some very small variations in DNA between humans and Chimpanzees that make some very big differences between our species. First, humans are better able to adapt to inflammation and infection. Second, we are better able to tolerate eating red meat — cholesterol laden, but also often teeming with parasites that caused chronic infections and inflammation. The change allowing both these things is in a “unique variants in a cholesterol transporting gene, apolipoprotein E,” or ApoE3 for short.

ApoE3 is a multitasking gene, important for digesting fats, regulating the immune system, and vital to cognition.  Damaged ApoE3 is a possible culprit in Alzheimer’s Disease and Cerebral Palsy. Research into this gene and how it is involved in the inflammatory process could help scientists find ways to help humans avoid these diseases as well as cancer and heart disease.

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