Centenarians from around the world are sending blood samples to the Coriell Research Institute (CRI) as part of a $10 million challenge to better understand the key to longevity.
Once CRI has reached 100 blood samples, groups of scientists will compete in the 30-day Archon Genomics X Prize competition to sequence each genome for $1,000 or less with an accuracy rate greater than 99%.
The competition is expected to be completed by October 2013 and the data will be made available to researchers around the world.
"Effectively, we're trying to identify the genome of healthy longevity," Peter Diamandis says, founder of the X Prize Foundation, which is co-sponsoring the competition.
The data could help researchers determine whether healthy centenarians have "protective genes" that increase their resistance to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's, according to Thomas Perls, who is directing a Boston University-based study on centenarians.
Understanding the makeup of protective genes could lead to the development of drugs that protect against Alzheimer's, Perls says.
There are about 500,000 centenarians worldwide, and that number increases by about 7% a year, according to 2010 U.S. Census data (Ansberry, Wall Street Journal, 9/21).
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Daily roundup: Sept. 25, 2012