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Genetics of human longevity: From variants to genes to pathways.

The current increase in lifespan without an equivalent increase in healthspan poses a grave challenge to the healthcare system and a severe burden on society. However, some individuals seem to be able to live a long and healthy life without the occurrence of major debilitating chronic diseases, and part of this trait seems to be hidden in their genome. In this review, we discuss the findings from studies on the genetic component of human longevity and the main challenges accompanying these studies. We subsequently focus on results from genetic studies in model organisms and comparative genomic approaches to highlight the most important conserved longevity-associated pathways. By combining the results from studies using these different approaches, we conclude that only five main pathways have been consistently linked to longevity, namely (1) insulin/insulin-like growth factor 1 signalling, (2) DNA-damage response and repair, (3) immune function, (4) cholesterol metabolism and (5) telomere maintenance. As our current approaches to study the relevance of these pathways in humans are limited, we suggest that future studies on the genetics of human longevity should focus on the identification and functional characterization of rare genetic variants in genes involved in these pathways.

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