NEW YORK – Raise your celebratory glass of Dr. Brown’s at New York’s Second
Avenue Deli with a resounding “l’chaim.” A scientific study being undertaken at
New York’s Cornell Medical College seeks to determine, through stem cell
research, what allows many Ashkenazi Jews to live long lives despite unhealthy
eating and drinking habits.
The team will study the stem cells of a dozen
elderly Ashkenazi Jews, a population that shares distinct genetic
traits.RELATED:Healthy Eating: True or false? Find out the real story Just when you though it was safe to eat fish
As perhaps a sort of bonus for having endured centuries of gove r
n m e n t - enforced isolation, Ashkenazi Jews tended to marry and procreate
with one another, creating a comparatively homogeneous genetic population in
possession of a “longevity gene.” This gene can protect from cancer, heart
attacks and other fatal diseases.
The variants in genes can regulate a
chemical called insulin-like growth factor 1, also known as IGF-1. The chemical
is involved in childhood growth as well as the growth and use of energy in cells
throughout the body. Carriers capable of regulating IGF-1 seem more likely to
live to 100, and more likely to be short, a trait they pass on to their
Scientists speculate that one element to this longevity gene
might have a stem cell base.
The team will extract stem cells from the
elderly participants, and then put the engineered cells into stress tests,
comparing them with cells from people whose population’s average life span is
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