BOSTON, July 2 (UPI) -- Genes can accurately predict how long a person will live, and they may provide clues to treat or prevent age-related diseases, a U.S. study says.
The study at Boston University identified a small set of DNA variations called genetic markers that can predict "exceptional longevity" with 77 percent accuracy, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
There's no one single "longevity gene," the study published in the journal Science said, but rather a cumulative effect of almost 150 markers, and different people show different markers.
"The study shows that there are different paths to becoming a centenarian," BU graduate student and co-author Nadia Solovieff said. "People age in different ways."
Genes are not the whole story, the study said. For most people, environment and lifestyle play equally important roles in aging.
Research on the genetic markers could be used to develop drugs for age-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's, which occur at much lower rates in centenarians, the study suggests.
Centenarians, people 100 or older, account for about one out of every 6,000 people in the United States, where the average life expectancy is about 78 years,.
"It's kind of like winning the lottery," study co-author Dr. Thomas Perls said.