Footprints in the Sand: Deep Taxonomic Comparisons in Vertebrate Genomics to Unveil the Genetic Programs of Human Longevity

Stephen Treaster, David Karasik, Matthew P. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


With the modern quality, quantity, and availability of genomic sequencing across species, as well as across the expanse of human populations, we can screen for shared signatures underlying longevity and lifespan. Knowledge of these mechanisms would be medically invaluable in combating aging and age-related diseases. The diversity of longevities across vertebrates is an opportunity to look for patterns of genetic variation that may signal how this life history property is regulated, and ultimately how it can be modulated. Variation in human longevity provides a unique window to look for cases of extreme lifespan within a population, as well as associations across populations for factors that influence capacity to live longer. Current large cohort studies support the use of population level analyses to identify key factors associating with human lifespan. These studies are powerful in concept, but have demonstrated limited ability to resolve signals from background variation. In parallel, the expanding catalog of sequencing and annotation from diverse species, some of which have evolved longevities well past a human lifespan, provides independent cases to look at the genomic signatures of longevity. Recent comparative genomic work has shown promise in finding shared mechanisms associating with longevity among distantly related vertebrate groups. Given the genetic constraints between vertebrates, we posit that a combination of approaches, of parallel meta-analysis of human longevity along with refined analysis of other vertebrate clades having exceptional longevity, will aid in resolving key regulators of enhanced lifespan that have proven to be elusive when analyzed in isolation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number678073
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
StatePublished - 7 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Treaster, Karasik and Harris.


  • GWAS
  • evolution
  • lifespan
  • longevity
  • phylogenomics
  • vertebrates


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