Why a Biotech Company Bought Sardinians' DNA

About one in every 2,000 people in Ogliastra lives to be 100
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2016 4:09 PM CDT

(Newser) – About one in every 2,000 people in Ogliastra, a province in eastern Sardinia, lives to be 100, the Financial Times reports. According to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, that's five times the normal rate in the developed world and nearly 50 times greater than the rate in the US. To figure out what makes the residents of this mountainous region in the middle of the Mediterranean so long-lived—and hopefully use that knowledge to develop drugs and treatments to help out the rest of us—biotech company Tiziana Life Sciences just paid more than $280,000 for a "biobank" of DNA samples from nearly 13,000 Ogliastra residents, the Guardian reports. It's one of the "largest and oldest" collections of DNA samples in the world.

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Mountains in Ogliastra have isolated its villages for generations, leading to a "high rate of inbreeding" and a genetically homogeneous population. That could mean residents share genetic traits protecting them from certain diseases. “Part of it is the environment and the diet, of course, but part of it might be something genetic that we don’t yet know about,” Tiziana CEO Gabriele Cerrone tells the Times. Cerrone says Ogliastra is one of only three regions in the world with an impressively high number of centenarians. There are currently 91 living in the province. Its population's longevity rate is second only to that of Okinawa in Japan. (Meanwhile, the number of centenarians in the US is spiking.)

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