A genetic test telling people if they are likely to live to 100 could soon be made available.
Extreme long life can be predicted with an accuracy of 77% through a set of genetic fingerprints discovered by scientists.
They believe the results could be used by private companies to create a test to see how long a person will live.
However, they are concerned over the social impact this could have.
The 150 genetic variants are found in people who survive to their late 90s or beyond, with remarkably little disability.
They appear to exert a powerful effect, counteracting the influence of genes linked to age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's and heart disease that can shorten life.
The biological pathways involved are complex and still not understood, making the prospect of an "elixir of life" drug cocktail unlikely.
But with the scientific data in the public domain, it may not be long before someone produces a "DNA chip" test for the long-life variants.
A student involved in the study is already working on a scientific website that can be used by anyone with access to their genetic code.
It will analyse the genetic data to calculate the chances of longevity, and provide advice on how to interpret the results.
The research is published on Friday in the online version of the journal Science.
Copyright © Press Association 2010
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