Maintaining healthy levels of iron in the blood could be a key to healthier aging and longer life, according to a large international study based on genetic data from more than a million adults. European researchers pooled information from three large public datasets to enable an extremely detailed investigation into why some people may age biologically at faster rates than others. They pinpointed 10 regions of the human genome linked to lifespan, healthspan and longevity (defined as extremely long life), and found that gene sets linked to iron were heavily represented in all three areas. They determined that genes involved in metabolizing iron in the blood are partly responsible for a healthy long life.
Their findings could help to speed the development of drugs to reduce age-related diseases and extend healthy years of life, the researchers said.
Abnormally high or low blood iron levels are linked to several age-related conditions, including heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and a reduced ability to fight infections. By designing a drug that could mimic the influence of genetics on iron metabolism, these scientists believe some of its negative impacts on aging could be overcome.
Their study was published in the journal Nature Communications.