Are your grandparents’ genes the reason you’re living longer?

Are your grandparents’ genes the reason you’re living longer?

Not only do grandparents act as a resource for their children – providing child care, picking the kids up from school and helping out when kids get sick – they’re also helping their grandchildren live longer.

The ability to pass wisdom on to their grandchildren and provide an additional level of nurturing could be impacting evolution, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers found that humans possess gene variants that could defend against Alzheimer’s disease and potentially other illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These variants have not been found in primates, which led researchers to the hypothesis that humans may be evolving to stay alive and well longer in order to help their descendants.

“Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Daniel Litoff, internist and geriatrician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “It’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease that occurs late in life but doesn’t affect all elderly. It’s interesting that some of our grandparents may have evolved a mechanism to protect themselves.”

Humans are living longer today than ever before, meaning more people are at risk for developing late-in-life illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“It’s a devastating illness and impacts not just the patient, but their family members who care for them,” says Dr. Litoff. “My hope is that new treatment options will be found for those affected with Alzheimer’s and other diseases, whether that includes new drugs to prevent or reverse the changes in the brain or finding a way to turn on these protective genes.”

Some academics agree this gene’s existence may not be a result of natural selection, but instead could appear for a number of other reasons or simply by chance.

“No matter the reason, it’s wonderful when grandparents can be a source of help and comfort for their children and grandchildren,” says Dr. Litoff.

Researchers said discovering the gene’s variant could impact the way we cure Alzheimer’s disease, but that more research is needed.

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Comments

4 Comments

  1. “Researchers found that humans possess gene variants that could defend against Alzheimer’s disease and potentially other illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These variants have not been found in primates, which led researchers to the hypothesis that humans may be evolving to stay alive and well longer in order to help their descendants.” Not sure how the presence of these gene variants prove anything about humans evolving to stay alive to help their descendants. Please print articles with actual data and proof – not just a bunch of fluff

  2. This article is nonsensical. The headline implies grandchildren help their grandparents live longer. The body tries to explain the opposite, that grandparents are helping their grandchildren live longer. The article is actually referring to a gene variation that may defend against illnesses that affect the elderly, which has absolutely nothing to do with grandparents and grandchildren. If a person has this gene variation, it benefits themselves as well as their descendants, not solely grandchildren.

    Bad reporting like this is why so many Americans don’t understand science.

  3. Dr. Azmey Matarieh
    health enews editor December 15, 2015 at 4:19 pm · Reply

    Thank you for your comments! We appreciate you sharing this feedback and we have updated the title accordingly.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.