There are currently 74 supercentenarians alive around the world, including 22 who live in the United States. You may be thinking to yourself: What’s their secret to staying alive past their 110th birthday? Genetically, there is no secret. A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE has revealed that the genes of supercentenarians hold no clues to being the oldest people in the world.

"From this small sample size, the researchers were unable to find rare protein-altering variants significantly associated with extreme longevity compared to control genomes," said lead researcher Hinco Gierman from Stanford University.

Gierman and his colleagues recruited 17 supercentenarians, including 14 from European ancestry, two from a Hispanic background, and one African-American. The average age of death for this group of supercentenarians was 112, while the longest-living participant lived to be 116. After conducting whole-genome sequencing on all 17 members of the group, researchers found no genes associated with a lifespan over 110 years.

Previous research has shown that supercentenarian’s ability to reach such an advanced age is in some way related to their avoidance of major age-related diseases. For example, centenarians have a 19 percent lifetime incidence of cancer development compared 49 percent among members of normal population. People who live past the age of 100 also have lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or suffering a stroke.

According to the Office for National Statistics, life expectancy improvements and the dramatic “baby boom” following the World War I will lead to around 100 supercentenarians in England and Wales alone by 2034. Andrew Harrop, head of public policy at Age Concern and Help the Aged, said this projection “demonstrates how far and fast our ageing society is evolving, as well as the true worth of advances in medicine and the increasing effectiveness of preventive treatments.”

Source: Roach J, Fortney K, Gierman H, et al. Whole-Genome Sequencing of the World’s Oldest People. PLOS ONE. 2014.