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The science of super-agers

According to the Guinness World Records the oldest person ever living on earth was 122 years and 164 days old Jeanne Louise Calment, who was born on 21 February 1875 and died on 4 August 1997 [1]. Today’s oldest living person, with an authenticated date of birth, appears to be Emma Martina Luigia Morano of Vercelli, who was born on 29 November 1899 [2].

The life expectancy in the whole population steadily increased since the 19th century (see Figure 1a, adapted from [3]), foremost attributable to a sharp decrease of infant-mortality, but also to a reduction in late-life mortality.

However, despite better access to health care, clean water, enough food and an increasing consciousness of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ (decreasing number of smokers, being physically active until an old age, …) this didn’t change the mean of the very old ages significantly, as well as the age of the oldest person ever didn’t change since Jeanne Louise Calment died in 1997, leading to the assumption of a biological limit of human ageing.

As you can see in Fig. 1b the relative changes of people reaching a specific age drop at the very old ages, emphasizing the hypothesis of a limit in human life expectancy.

Scientists hope that following years will let them gain more insights into this area of research, as more people with authenticated dates of birth reach these old ages.

Furthermore, they are looking for mechanisms of this hypothesized limit and possible interventions in order to find ways of improving life expectancy even further…

- NS


[1] http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-person (05/14/2017)

[2] http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2016/5/guinness-world-records-announces-emma-martina-luigia-morano-as-worlds-oldest-liv-428983 (05/14/2017)

[3] X Dong et al. Nature 1–3 (2016) doi:10.1038/nature19793 (05/14/2017)