Scientists are testing an elixir of life based on the genetic mutations of Amish people

Want to live forever? One surprising group of people may have the secret to a long life.

Scientists at Northwestern University have discovered that a certain percentage of the Old Order Amish living in rural Indiana have a genetic mutation that “appears to protect against multiple aspects of biological aging.” Those scientists are now testing a “longevity drug” to see whether the benefits of that mutation could protect others against age-related illness and diabetes.

“In our study, we found that the unaffected kindred had a median lifespan of 75 years and the carriers of the mutation had a median lifespan of 85 years,” Douglas Vaughan, a cardiologist at Northwestern and lead author of the study said in a YouTube video about the research.

RELATED: The Amish community

8 PHOTOS
The Amish community
See Gallery
The Amish community
GORDONVILLE, PA - MARCH 12: An Amish auctioneer leads bidders during the Annual Mud Sale to support the Fire Department March 12, 2011 in Gordonville, Pennsylvania. The auctions are held in the spring by the Amish community to raise money for the community. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Amish farmers using a horse-drawn plow on hay field near Lancaster County , PA. Amish are descendants of Swiss-German Mennonites who fled religious persecution in Europe and are famous for their strict beliefs, traditional dress and their rejection of modern day conveniences, such as electricity and cars. The oldest community of Amish in the United States live in this area of Lancaster County, PA.
GORDONVILLE, PA - MARCH 12: Amish bidders watch the auction during the Annual Mud Sale to support the Fire Department March 12, 2011 in Gordonville, Pennsylvania. The auctions are held in the spring by the Amish community to raise money for the community. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
Amish community in Mexico, 2009. (Photo by: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)
NICKEL MINES, PA - JANUARY 30: Members of the Amish community pass the site of the old schoolhouse in which five Amish girls were murdered January 30, 2007 in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. The Amish are in the process of rebuilding a schoolhouse a few hundred yards from the site where Charles Carl Roberts IV shot 10 girls and later committed suicide on October 2, 2006. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 27: Amish women react with emotion as they look over photographs of Waveland, Miss., as it was before Hurricane Katrina hit during a sharing night for the Waveland and Amish communities at an Amish camp near the beach in Waveland, Miss. The Amish people arrived from Lancaster County, Penn., on Sept. 3, 2005, five days after the storm, to volunteer to help with the cleanup and rebuilding effort. But for a two-month hiatus in the summer to tend to crops and fields back home, the Amish are still here, making the 20-hour trip in someone else's vehicle, since one of the Amish customs is to not drive. (Photo by Craig Warga/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
INTERCOURSE, UNITED STATES: A sign entering Intercourse, PA, 08 October, 2004, in Lancaster County, PA. The Amish are descendants of Swiss-German Mennonites who fled persecution in Europe in the 16th century and are famous for their strict beliefs, traditional dress and their rejection of modern day conveniences, such as electricity and cars. The oldest community of Amish in the United States live in this area of Lancaster County, PA. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The mutation causes these 43 members of the community — out of a total of 177 — to have comparatively low levels of a protein called “plasminogen activator inhibitor-1.” This protein helps promote blood clotting, but it also seems to have a relationship with the aging process.

Those with the mutation also have lower rates of diabetes and lower “vascular age” — an indication of “retained flexibility in [their] blood vessels” — compared to those without the mutation.

“For the first time we are seeing a molecular marker of aging ... a metabolic marker of aging (fasting insulin levels) and a cardiovascular marker of aging (blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness) all tracking in the same direction in that these individuals were generally protected from age-related changes,” Vaughan said in a news release. “That played out in them having a longer lifespan. Not only do they live longer, they live healthier.”

To test whether the benefits of lower levels of the PAI-1 protein might be transferable to those without this genetic mutation, Northwestern is working with Tohoku University in Japan to test an oral drug that would mimic the mutation’s effects. Northwestern is in the process of applying for a trial that would test the effects of this drug on patients with Type 2 diabetes, “possibly to begin within the next six months,” according to the news release.

In an earlier trial, whose results were published in 2014, the drug more than tripled the lifespan of mice compared to the control group.

Read Full Story