Scripps shares genetic sequences of healthy elderly to boost Alzheimer's and cancer research

The use of genomics to understand aging has become a high-profile field in recent months, with J. Craig Venter's Human Longevity and Google's ($GOOG) Calico both researching the topic. Now Scripps has given the rest of the sector a new resource--whole genome sequences of 454 healthy elderly people.

Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) sequenced the genomes as part of its Wellderly Study, an ongoing project to identify the genetic drivers of a long, healthy life. Each of the 454 participants lived to at least 80 years old without developing any chronic disease. STSI has made the data freely available through the San Diego Supercomputer--and with financial support from the National Institutes of Health--to give researchers a control group for use in genome studies.

Researchers have already discovered genes that may play a role in diseases by comparing the control group to sequencing data from people with particular illnesses. A paper published in January used Wellderly Study data to link rare gene mutations to a twofold increase in the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's. In a statement, STSI clinical scholar Dr. Erick Scott said the data "offers the genomics community a best-case scenario for the presence of a DNA variant in a population."

STSI will continue to add genome sequences to the database. Even so, it will soon be dwarfed by Venter's Human Longevity, which plans to sequence 40,000 genomes a year. The massive scale of Human Longevity and other initiatives using Illumina's ($ILMN) HiSeq X Ten sequencers create new opportunities, but there are advantages to the more targeted approach taken by STSI, too. STSI cites the "exceptional healthspan" of everyone in its database as its key differentiator. 

- here's the STSI release

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