Why genes extending lifespan in model organisms have not been consistently associated with human longevity and what it means to translation research

Cell Cycle. 2014;13(17):2671-3. doi: 10.4161/15384101.2014.950151.


A recent paper by Deelen et al. (2014) in Human Molecular Genetics reports the largest genome-wide association study of human longevity to date. While impressive, there is a remarkable lack of association of genes known to considerably extend lifespan in rodents with human longevity, both in this latest study and in genetic association studies in general. Here, I discuss several possible explanations, such as intrinsic limitations in longevity association studies and the complex genetic architecture of longevity. Yet one hypothesis is that the lack of correlation between longevity-associated genes in model organisms and genes associated with human longevity is, at least partly, due to intrinsic limitations and biases in animal studies. In particular, most studies in model organisms are conducted in strains of limited genetic diversity which are then not applicable to human populations. This has important implications and, together with other recent results demonstrating strain-specific longevity effects in rodents due to caloric restriction, it questions our capacity to translate the exciting findings from the genetics of aging to human therapies.

Keywords: GWAS; aging; genetics; humans; longevity; model organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*