Centenarians can leave a lasting legacy by donating DNA to science

Living to 100 years old is a remarkable feat in itself, but now 100 centenarians will have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy that could radically change medical care for generations to come.

The X PRIZE Foundation and Medco Health Solutions, Inc. are searching for the Medco 100 Over 100 – a group of 100 vital centenarians whose genes could unlock the secrets of healthy aging and improve the way we prevent and treat disease.

These “genomic pioneers” will donate their DNA by way of a simple blood test to the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco – a $ 10 million competition that pits world-class teams in a race to rapidly, accurately and inexpensively sequence the genomes of the Medco 100 Over 100. The results could identify rare genes that protect against disease and provide valuable clues to health and longevity.

“The Medco 100 Over 100 will represent a very special group of people who have lived an unusually long life and somehow beaten the odds against the common diseases of aging that substantially impact quality of life and longevity,” says Felix Frueh, president of the Medco Research Institute. “Discovering what makes them different from the rest of us could lead to important advances in prevention and treatment of disease – that’s quite a gift to give by participating in this research effort.”

The search for the Medco 100 Over 100 will span the globe looking for centenarians and “supercentenarians” (age 110 and older) to participate in this historic initiative. Anyone 100 years or older, who is cognizant, currently without any serious disease and is willing to share their story can be nominated to join the Medco 100 Over 100. While good health will be an important criterion for selection, special consideration will be given to supercentenarians, whose extreme longevity challenges the normal notions of aging. Centenarian nominations can be submitted at www.genomics.xprize.org/medco-100-over-100 and will be accepted through May 2012.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 53,000 centenarians and only 330 supercentenarians living in the U.S. in 2010. The states with the highest number of resident centenarians are California, Florida, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania.