Human longevity is determined to a certain extent by genetic factors. Several candidate genes have been studied for their association with human longevity, but the data collected so far are inconclusive. One of the reasons is the choice of the candidate genes in addition to the choice of an appropriate study design and methodology. Since aging is characterized by a progressive accumulation of molecular damage and an attenuation of the cellular defense mechanisms, the focus of studies on human longevity association with genes has now shifted to the pathways of cellular maintenance and repair mechanisms. One such pathway includes the battery of stress response genes, especially the heat shock protein HSP70 genes. Three such genes, HSPA1A, HSPA1B and HSPA1L, are present within the MHC-III region on the short arm of chromosome 6. We and others have found alleles, genotypes and haplotypes which have been significantly associated with human longevity and survival. We have also provided some functional evidence for these genetic associations by showing that isolated peripheral blood cells from those genotypes which are negatively associated with human longevity also have less ability to respond to heat shock. Stress response genes, particularly HSP70, are now the major candidates in the gene-longevity association studies.