Researchers continue to analyze populations and the relative contribution of genetic makeup to longevity
In the past, constructing large family trees have been laborious with limited geographic scope
Previous studies have estimated the heritability of longevity to be approximately 25%
Genomewide association studies have not been successful thus far at identifying specific genetic variants associated with longevity
Kaplanis et al., (Science, 2018) leveraged large publicly available online databases to construct family trees and better refine the contribution of genetics to lifespan
The authors used a crowd-sourcing website in the genealogy domain
Coverage of almost all countries in the Western world
The site scans and merges profiles that can be co-managed resulting in large family trees
86-million publicly available profiles were downloaded for the purpose of this study
Demographic and geographic data were also extracted
Authors adjusted longevity to be the difference between the age of death from the expected lifespan
3-million family trees were created
The largest family tree spanned 13-million individuals, connected by shared ancestry and marriage
Only 16% of variation in how long people live is due to genes
Over time, people married partners who were less closely related
Migration and ability of long distance travel contributed to this data
Cultural factors also played a role: During the 19th century, there was a 50-year lag between increased familial dispersion and the decline of genetic relatedness between couples, suggesting that transportation is not the only reason for decreased consanguinity in Western societies
Genetics may only account for 16% of variation in longevity, which is considerably less than previous estimated
This study harnessed the power of social media, new technologies and collaboration between basic research and consumer genetic genealogy databases
This approach can be used to answer important questions in biomedical research, aside from anthropology, public health and economics
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