Although it may seem unbelievable, a new study suggests that there is a 'grandparent gene'. The survival grandparent gene works to ensure that older people can live longer. This allows them to care for their grandchildren and pass on their wisdom to future generations.
Researchers have discovered that ‘grandparent’ genes that evolved specifically to protect older people against neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease. By doing so they preserve their contribution to society. You can read more about the study here.
Protecting older people against disease
These special gene variants,which appear in large numbers in humans, seem to protect against dementia and heart problems until much older than other animals. The scientists who carried out the study at the University of California, believe the genes ensure the grandparent survives longer. This is so that they are around to look after grandchildren and pass down their own knowledge.
Humans live decades beyond reproductive age - which is unlike other animals. This is because of natural selection favouring genes which boost reproductive success. The study actually compared humans genes to chimps, our nearest relative.
"They found that levels of a CD33 gene variant were four times higher in humans than in chimps. CD33 is essential for keeping the immune system functioning correctly and is known to suppress the sticky amyloid-beta which builds up in the brain, stopping neurons from functioning, in Alzheimer’s patients." The Telegraph
Appreciating grandparent's wisdom
The study has been a great reminder to all of us at Lifeline 24, of how incredibly important our generational differences are. Humans clearly have a need for sharing of experiences, unlike many other animals. Valuing our elders really is a privilege that we often take for granted.
We'd like to encourage you to take some time to engage in conversation, the next time you see your grandparent(s). Get lost in their memories and ask plenty of questions - you never know what you might learn! Our grandparents have an incredibly important role in our lives!