Scientists from Caltech have identified a common genetic mutation called C150T transition in people over 100 years old, a possible key to discovering a "fountain of youth". This genetic mutation was found in the mitochondrial DNA of white blood cells, in a study of a group of 52 Italian centenarians. The researchers found that 17 per cent of the 52 had the mutation, while it was found in only 3.4 per cent of 117 control subjects under the age of 99.
Mitochondria are so-called "organelles" which exist inside of cells, and are thought to have resulted from a symbiotic "capture" of free-flowing mitochondria "organisms" by ancient cells. They are the "powerhouses" of modern cells and are instrumental in the generation of energy for the entire cell to use. These mitochondria are found only in the human egg and not in the sperm and are passed from cell to cell only by cell division. This means that a person's mitochondia come only from their mother. And this makes them a valuable marker for human migration studies.
Dr. Guiseppe Attardi, Caltech professor of molecular biology and an author of the study said that this key mutation shifts the site at which mitochondrial DNA starts to replicate, and perhaps that may accelerate its replication, allowing the individual to replace damaged molecules faster.