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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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The ageing gene?

Newspapers love to tell us that they have ‘found the gene for ......’. A range of absurd causes of laziness, criminality, sexuality, bad temper and so on are put forward. The reality is that most of the time genetic research finds coding that is a useful marker for increased likelihood of a disease, behaviour and so on. In the news recently is a piece of research published in Nature Genetics by a long list of Dutch and British researchers. It suggests that there is a gene sequence which is linked to the lengths of telomeres, the tips of chromosomes which shorten as we become older. These are, in turn, linked to the way in which the diseases of ageing (heart decay, skin ageing, etc) catch up with us.

If so, this line of development could produce a marker in our DNA which tells physicians — or life insurance companies — what our propensity to age may be. Whether we have ‘the gene for ageing’ and whether or not we can somehow switch it off, this may be an important area for the insurance industry to apply a special focus.