This Gene Might Be Why Some Age Faster Than Others

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If others think you look younger than your true age, you may want to thank your parents.

Researchers from Europe have discovered that a particular gene may be the reason behind that youthful glow. The study authors gathered approximately 2,700 volunteers, showed these men and women (in total) more than 4,000 profile shots, and asked them to guess each person’s age.

Investigators then analyzed the DNA of the adults in the photographs and here’s what they found: The individuals who appeared to be older than their actual age carried the same gene, called MC1R. Genes comes in pairs, so those people who had one version of this gene (43 percent) looked about one year older than those who weren’t carriers. And those who had copies of this gene (6 percent) looked about two years older, which is the similar age gap between smokers and non-smokers.

As for the other approximately 50 percent of people who didn’t have this this gene…they’re just not aging as quickly. Interesting enough, the gene doesn’t seem to be producing extra wrinkles.

And redheads may be the luckiest of them all. Scientists say a variant of this MC1R gene is associated with longevity and is the same gene responsible for red hair and fair skin. Translation: Redheads who look younger may also live longer.

While these findings, which are published in the journal Current Biology, do not provide an explanation as to exactly how this particular gene accelerates aging, the researchers theorize that it may bring about a cluster of elderly traits, such as loose skin, red veins, and age spots. 

“For the first time, a gene has been found that explains in part why some people look older and others younger for their age, study co-author Manfred Kayser, a professor in the Department of Genetic Identification at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in the Netherlands, told The Daily Mail. “Discovering this gene is important because it opens the door for finding more genes, which we know exist and we now know are possible to find.”

“This gene encodes a receptor responsible for the formation of melanin, a brown pigment in skin,” Delphine J. Lee, MD, dermatologist and Director of the Dirks/Dougherty Laboratory for Cancer Research and Department of Translational Immunology at John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA, tells Yahoo Beauty. “People with a variation of the MC1R make a yellow/reddish (pheomelanin) pigment instead of the brown pigment, which has less UV protection and also may have other effects on pathways that involve oxidative stress.”

Dr. Lee continues that the association of MC1R with aging “leads us to hypothesize that responses to ultraviolet light or oxidative damage is a key factor in a person’s appearance of youth or age.”

David A, Gunn, a scientist at Unilever and a co-author of the study, added that regardless of your genetic makeup, the top three anti-aging tips include staying out of the sun, staying away from cigarettes, and taking care of your pearly whites.

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