Genetic Longevity studies at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam have recently shed some light into the secrets of living a long life.  After sequencing the genome of  Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, also known as W115 as she lived to 115 years of age, geneticists noticed rare genetic mutations which may have protected her from late-life diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease, etc. When studying her brain, scientists noted that her brain the the first of such an advanced age to not have any signs of disease. Van Andel-Schipper attributed her longevity to eating herring and drinking orange juice every day.  When van Andel-Schipper was 82 years old she made the descision to leaver her body to science so that people could discover why she became this old. It is also understood that van Andel-Schipper’s mother lived to 99 years and 10 months.

Van Andel-Schipper was born on June 29, 1890 in Smilde, Drenthe in the Netherlands and had no children of her own, so it is unsure if the mutations in her genes began with her or were also passed to other relatives.  Several other relatives have come forward to either donate their bodies upon death or give blood samples to help scientists determine if the mutations are spread throughout the family.  If they are spread around, then it will give scientists additional insight into their genetic longevity studies.

While having genes to fend of diseases normally brought on by ageing, van Andel-Schipper died peacfully in her sleep on August 30, 2005 at the age of 115 years and 2 months from an undiagnosed malignant gastric cancer.  A couple of days prior to her death she was quoted as saying to the director of the nursing home where she lived that “It’s been nice, but the man upstairs says it’s time to go.”