Researchers from the Northwestern and Tohoku University in Japan are now testing an experimental oral drug, TM5614, that mimics these effects, in human trials.
Additionally, the mutation also resulted in significantly lower levels of fasting insulin and less diabetes, as well as retained blood vessel flexibility arising from lower vascular age based on a composite measure.
They found that around a third of the men carried a non-functioning gene which helped them live an extra 10 years on average.
"For the first time we are seeing a molecular marker of ageing [telomere length], a metabolic marker of ageing (fasting insulin levels) and a cardiovascular marker of ageing [blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness] all tracking in the same direction in that these individuals were generally protected from age-related changes", said Mr. Vaughan, lead author of the study published in the journal Science Advances. He's a cardiologist and chairman of medicine at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine.
"The findings astonished us because of the consistency of the anti-aging benefits across multiple body systems", Vaughan said.
The medical experts were looking for the genetic mutation - and the protein that it codes for, called plasminogen activator inhibitor, PAI-1.
A gene variant that arose decades ago in an Amish group allows them to live longer. "It's a desirable form of longevity". Roughly 5 percent of this isolated Amish community in IN carries the mutation, which causes them to produce unusually low levels of PAI-1, the scientists explained.
The mutation was introduced by Swiss farmers who moved to Berne, Indiana.
Two of their descendants, who carried the mutation, married into the Amish community.
The next step for researchers is to see if drugs that target PAI-1 might be developed that could extend the lifespans of the rest of us, too.
People with the mutation live to be 85 on average, significantly longer than their predicted average lifespan of 71 for Amish in general and which has not changed much over the last century.
Not only that, but Dr. Toshio Miyata and his team at Tohoku University have shown in early human trials that the drug appears to be safe. "Overall, our findings are the first to identify the physiological association of a null mutation in PAI-1 with LTL and life span in humans and suggest that PAI-1, a component of the senescence-related secretome, may influence the aging process". They hope to test it in the United States within the next six months, following FDA approval.
The findings were published November 15 in the journal Science Advances.
Researchers from Northwestern University studied the Old Order Amish, who have lived in genetic isolation in America's in for hundreds of years.