Thomas T. Perls, MD, MPH, FACP

Professor, Medicine

Thomas Perls
617.353.2050
72 E. Concord St Robinson (B)

Biography

Expertise in epidemiology, genetics of aging and exceptional longevity.

Dr. Perls is among the international leaders in the field of human exceptional longevity. He is founder and director of the New England Centenarian Study, the largest study of centenarians and their families in the world. He is also a principal investigator of the NIA-funded Long Life Family Study. Dr. Perls is also a vocal critic of the “anti-aging” industry.

Dr. Perls is readily available for media interviews and inquiries for presentations. Please call him at 617-638-6688 or via email at thperls@bu.edu.

He has been responsible for numerous novel and pivotal findings in the field:

• Intact cognitive function amongst centenarians may be a function of demographic selection in which younger elderly with poor function die off leaving behind a select group of survivors with lower relative risk for common causes of cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease.

• Twenty percent of female centenarians had children after the age of 40 compared with 5% of women from their birth cohort. The results suggest that women who had children after the age of 40 had a 4 times greater risk of living to 100 or older (Nature).

• Delayed age of menopause and therefore the ability to have more children may be an important genetic selective pressure to evolve genetic variants that slow aging and decrease risk for age related diseases.

• Relative to octogenarians and nonagenarians, Alzheimer’s becomes less common amongst centenarians while rarer causes of neuropathology become more common, suggesting that centenarians have a relative resistance to Alzheimer’s, which also correlates with the decreased frequency of the apolipoprotein E-4 allele amongst Caucasian centenarians.

• The first to report a series of families that demonstrate remarkable clustering for exceptional longevity (J Amer Geriatrics Society).

• Siblings of centenarians have markedly increased risks for survival to 100 relative to their birth cohort (Lancet and PNAS).

• The children of centenarians have approximately 60% reduced rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension and 80% reduced overall mortality in their early seventies compared to their average birth cohort.

• A substantial proportion of centenarians live with age-related diseases usually associated with significant mortality, for more than 20 years (40%, called survivors), another group have such diseases after the age of 80 (45%, called delayers) and then there are about 15% of centenarians who have none of these diseases at the age of 100 (called escapers). Despite this, more than 90% of centenarians are functionally independent in their early nineties.

• At even older ages however, semi-super-centenarians (ages 105-109 years) and even more so, supercentenarians (age 110+), usually delay such age related diseases towards the ends of their lives. The supercentenarians particularly do this, experiencing such diseases on average in the last 5% of their extremely long lives (J Gerontology, 2012). These findings support for the first time Jim Fries’ “compression of morbidity” hypothesis that he proposed in his 1980 New England Journal of Medicine article. The observed homogeneity of this age group in terms of the delay or escape of these diseases is consistent with their being the extreme tail of the population and that they are more likely to have genetic factors in common that confer such an extreme survival advantage.

• Dr. Perls, working with a wide range of disciplines including statisticians, geneticists and computer scientists, has led the production of a landmark article in which a genetic model consisting of 281 genetic markers predicts with 85% accuracy whom in their sample of controls and centenarians is age 105+ years (published this January in PLoS ONE). The accuracy of the model is lower, about 60% for nonagenarians and centenarians at age 100, which supports the hypothesis that the genetic component of survival to older and older age beyond 100 gets progressively stringer. The authors made some additionally important findings: the centenarians have just as many disease-associated genetic variants as people dying at younger ages. Presumably, centenarians are able to survive to much older ages in part because of the presence of longevity associated variants that counter the effects of such disease variants. Particularly for the oldest subjects in the study, most of these 281 markers presumably point to such longevity associated variants, including genes already well known in the biology of aging community such as the Werner’s gene, Lamin A (Hutchison Guildford Syndrome) and super oxide dismutase. It’s very interesting that there are variants for genes known to cause premature aging that may have the opposite effect and contribute to exceptional longevity.

• In part in order to search for functional variants associated with the SNPs noted in the above model, Dr. Perls also led an effort to whole genome sequence, for the first time, not just one centenarian, but two supercentenarians, a man and woman, both over the age of 114 years (Frontiers in Genetics, January 2012).

Other Positions

  • Member, Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research, Boston University
  • Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students), Boston University School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences

Education

  • University of Rochester, MD
  • Harvard School of Public Health, MPH
  • Pitzer College, BA

Publications

  • Published on 2/14/2020

    Feitosa MF, Lunetta KL, Wang L, Wojczynski MK, Kammerer CM, Perls T, Schupf N, Christensen K, Murabito JM, Province MA. Gene discovery for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level change over time in prospective family studies. Atherosclerosis. 2020 Feb 14; 297:102-110. PMID: 32109663.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 1/14/2020

    Marone S, Bloore K, Sebastiani P, Flynn C, Leonard B, Whitaker K, Mostowy M, Perls TT, Andersen SL. Purpose in Life Among Centenarian Offspring. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2020 Jan 14; 75(2):308-315. PMID: 29522128.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 11/13/2019

    Perls TT, Tan EJ. Healthy Longevity: An Introduction to the Special Issue. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Nov 13; 74(Supplement_1):S1-S3. PMID: 31724053.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 10/2/2019

    Tin A, Marten J, Halperin Kuhns VL, Li Y, Wuttke M, Kirsten H, Sieber KB, Qiu C, Gorski M, Yu Z, Giri A, Sveinbjornsson G, Li M, Chu AY, Hoppmann A, O'Connor LJ, Prins B, Nutile T, Noce D, Akiyama M, Cocca M, Ghasemi S, van der Most PJ, Horn K, Xu Y, Fuchsberger C, Sedaghat S, Afaq S, Amin N, Ärnlöv J, Bakker SJL, Bansal N, Baptista D, Bergmann S, Biggs ML, Biino G, Boerwinkle E, Bottinger EP, Boutin TS, Brumat M, Burkhardt R, Campana E, Campbell A, Campbell H, Carroll RJ, Catamo E, Chambers JC, Ciullo M, Concas MP, Coresh J, Corre T, Cusi D, Felicita SC, de Borst MH, De Grandi A, de Mutsert R, de Vries APJ, Delgado G, Demirkan A, Devuyst O, Dittrich K, Eckardt KU, Ehret G, Endlich K, Evans MK, Gansevoort RT, Gasparini P, Giedraitis V, Gieger C, Girotto G, Gögele M, Gordon SD, Gudbjartsson DF, Gudnason V, Haller T, Hamet P, Harris TB, Hayward C, Hicks AA, Hofer E, Holm H, Huang W, Hutri-Kähönen N, Hwang SJ, Ikram MA, Lewis RM, Ingelsson E, Jakobsdottir J, Jonsdottir I, Jonsson H, Joshi PK, Josyula NS, Jung B, Kähönen M, Kamatani Y, Kanai M, Kerr SM, Kiess W, Kleber ME, Koenig W, Kooner JS, Körner A, Kovacs P, Krämer BK, Kronenberg F, Kubo M, Kühnel B, La Bianca M, Lange LA, Lehne B, Lehtimäki T, Liu J, Loeffler M, Loos RJF, Lyytikäinen LP, Magi R, Mahajan A, Martin NG, März W, Mascalzoni D, Matsuda K, Meisinger C, Meitinger T, Metspalu A, Milaneschi Y, O'Donnell CJ, Wilson OD, Gaziano JM, Mishra PP, Mohlke KL, Mononen N, Montgomery GW, Mook-Kanamori DO, Müller-Nurasyid M, Nadkarni GN, Nalls MA, Nauck M, Nikus K, Ning B, Nolte IM, Noordam R, O'Connell JR, Olafsson I, Padmanabhan S, Penninx BWJH, Perls T, Peters A, Pirastu M, Pirastu N, Pistis G, Polasek O, Ponte B, Porteous DJ, Poulain T, Preuss MH, Rabelink TJ, Raffield LM, Raitakari OT, Rettig R, Rheinberger M, Rice KM, Rizzi F, Robino A, Rudan I, Krajcoviechova A, Cifkova R, Rueedi R, Ruggiero D, Ryan KA, Saba Y, Salvi E, Schmidt H, Schmidt R, Shaffer CM, Smith AV, Smith BH, Spracklen CN, Strauch K, Stumvoll M, Sulem P, Tajuddin SM, Teren A, Thiery J, Thio CHL, Thorsteinsdottir U, Toniolo D, Tönjes A, Tremblay J, Uitterlinden AG, Vaccargiu S, van der Harst P, van Duijn CM, Verweij N, Völker U, Vollenweider P, Waeber G, Waldenberger M, Whitfield JB, Wild SH, Wilson JF, Yang Q, Zhang W, Zonderman AB, Bochud M, Wilson JG, Pendergrass SA, Ho K, Parsa A, Pramstaller PP, Psaty BM, Böger CA, Snieder H, Butterworth AS, Okada Y, Edwards TL, Stefansson K, Susztak K, Scholz M, Heid IM, Hung AM, Teumer A, Pattaro C, Woodward OM, Vitart V, Köttgen A. Target genes, variants, tissues and transcriptional pathways influencing human serum urate levels. Nat Genet. 2019 10; 51(10):1459-1474. PMID: 31578528.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 10/1/2019

    Bae H, Lunetta KL, Murabito JM, Andersen SL, Schupf N, Perls T, Sebastiani P. Genetic associations with age of menopause in familial longevity. Menopause. 2019 10; 26(10):1204-1212. PMID: 31188284.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/1/2019

    Gurinovich A, Bae H, Farrell JJ, Andersen SL, Monti S, Puca A, Atzmon G, Barzilai N, Perls TT, Sebastiani P. PopCluster: an algorithm to identify genetic variants with ethnicity-dependent effects. Bioinformatics. 2019 Sep 01; 35(17):3046-3054. PMID: 30624692.

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  • Published on 8/14/2019

    Deelen J, Evans DS, Arking DE, Tesi N, Nygaard M, Liu X, Wojczynski MK, Biggs ML, van der Spek A, Atzmon G, Ware EB, Sarnowski C, Smith AV, Seppälä I, Cordell HJ, Dose J, Amin N, Arnold AM, Ayers KL, Barzilai N, Becker EJ, Beekman M, Blanché H, Christensen K, Christiansen L, Collerton JC, Cubaynes S, Cummings SR, Davies K, Debrabant B, Deleuze JF, Duncan R, Faul JD, Franceschi C, Galan P, Gudnason V, Harris TB, Huisman M, Hurme MA, Jagger C, Jansen I, Jylhä M, Kähönen M, Karasik D, Kardia SLR, Kingston A, Kirkwood TBL, Launer LJ, Lehtimäki T, Lieb W, Lyytikäinen LP, Martin-Ruiz C, Min J, Nebel A, Newman AB, Nie C, Nohr EA, Orwoll ES, Perls TT, Province MA, Psaty BM, Raitakari OT, Reinders MJT, Robine JM, Rotter JI, Sebastiani P, Smith J, Sørensen TIA, Taylor KD, Uitterlinden AG, van der Flier W, van der Lee SJ, van Duijn CM, van Heemst D, Vaupel JW, Weir D, Ye K, Zeng Y, Zheng W, Holstege H, Kiel DP, Lunetta KL, Slagboom PE, Murabito JM. A meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identifies multiple longevity genes. Nat Commun. 2019 08 14; 10(1):3669. PMID: 31413261.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 8/5/2019

    Sebastiani P, Monti S, Morris M, Gurinovich A, Toshiko T, Andersen SL, Sweigart B, Ferrucci L, Jennings LL, Glass DJ, Perls TT. A serum protein signature of APOE genotypes in centenarians. Aging Cell. 2019 12; 18(6):e13023. PMID: 31385390.

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  • Published on 7/22/2019

    Marron MM, Wojczynski MK, Minster RL, Boudreau RM, Sebastiani P, Cosentino S, Thyagarajan B, Ukraintseva SV, Schupf N, Christensen K, Feitosa M, Perls T, Zmuda JM, Newman AB. Heterogeneity of healthy aging: comparing long-lived families across five healthy aging phenotypes of blood pressure, memory, pulmonary function, grip strength, and metabolism. Geroscience. 2019 08; 41(4):383-393. PMID: 31332674.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 5/31/2019

    Wuttke M, Li Y, Li M, Sieber KB, Feitosa MF, Gorski M, Tin A, Wang L, Chu AY, Hoppmann A, Kirsten H, Giri A, Chai JF, Sveinbjornsson G, Tayo BO, Nutile T, Fuchsberger C, Marten J, Cocca M, Ghasemi S, Xu Y, Horn K, Noce D, van der Most PJ, Sedaghat S, Yu Z, Akiyama M, Afaq S, Ahluwalia TS, Almgren P, Amin N, Ärnlöv J, Bakker SJL, Bansal N, Baptista D, Bergmann S, Biggs ML, Biino G, Boehnke M, Boerwinkle E, Boissel M, Bottinger EP, Boutin TS, Brenner H, Brumat M, Burkhardt R, Butterworth AS, Campana E, Campbell A, Campbell H, Canouil M, Carroll RJ, Catamo E, Chambers JC, Chee ML, Chee ML, Chen X, Cheng CY, Cheng Y, Christensen K, Cifkova R, Ciullo M, Concas MP, Cook JP, Coresh J, Corre T, Sala CF, Cusi D, Danesh J, Daw EW, de Borst MH, De Grandi A, de Mutsert R, de Vries APJ, Degenhardt F, Delgado G, Demirkan A, Di Angelantonio E, Dittrich K, Divers J, Dorajoo R, Eckardt KU, Ehret G, Elliott P, Endlich K, Evans MK, Felix JF, Foo VHX, Franco OH, Franke A, Freedman BI, Freitag-Wolf S, Friedlander Y, Froguel P, Gansevoort RT, Gao H, Gasparini P, Gaziano JM, Giedraitis V, Gieger C, Girotto G, Giulianini F, Gögele M, Gordon SD, Gudbjartsson DF, Gudnason V, Haller T, Hamet P, Harris TB, Hartman CA, Hayward C, Hellwege JN, Heng CK, Hicks AA, Hofer E, Huang W, Hutri-Kähönen N, Hwang SJ, Ikram MA, Indridason OS, Ingelsson E, Ising M, Jaddoe VWV, Jakobsdottir J, Jonas JB, Joshi PK, Josyula NS, Jung B, Kähönen M, Kamatani Y, Kammerer CM, Kanai M, Kastarinen M, Kerr SM, Khor CC, Kiess W, Kleber ME, Koenig W, Kooner JS, Körner A, Kovacs P, Kraja AT, Krajcoviechova A, Kramer H, Krämer BK, Kronenberg F, Kubo M, Kühnel B, Kuokkanen M, Kuusisto J, La Bianca M, Laakso M, Lange LA, Langefeld CD, Lee JJ, Lehne B, Lehtimäki T, Lieb W, Lim SC, Lind L, Lindgren CM, Liu J, Liu J, Loeffler M, Loos RJF, Lucae S, Lukas MA, Lyytikäinen LP, Mägi R, Magnusson PKE, Mahajan A, Martin NG, Martins J, März W, Mascalzoni D, Matsuda K, Meisinger C, Meitinger T, Melander O, Metspalu A, Mikaelsdottir EK, Milaneschi Y, Miliku K, Mishra PP, Mohlke KL, Mononen N, Montgomery GW, Mook-Kanamori DO, Mychaleckyj JC, Nadkarni GN, Nalls MA, Nauck M, Nikus K, Ning B, Nolte IM, Noordam R, O'Connell J, O'Donoghue ML, Olafsson I, Oldehinkel AJ, Orho-Melander M, Ouwehand WH, Padmanabhan S, Palmer ND, Palsson R, Penninx BWJH, Perls T, Perola M, Pirastu M, Pirastu N, Pistis G, Podgornaia AI, Polasek O, Ponte B, Porteous DJ, Poulain T, Pramstaller PP, Preuss MH, Prins BP, Province MA, Rabelink TJ, Raffield LM, Raitakari OT, Reilly DF, Rettig R, Rheinberger M, Rice KM, Ridker PM, Rivadeneira F, Rizzi F, Roberts DJ, Robino A, Rossing P, Rudan I, Rueedi R, Ruggiero D, Ryan KA, Saba Y, Sabanayagam C, Salomaa V, Salvi E, Saum KU, Schmidt H, Schmidt R, Schöttker B, Schulz CA, Schupf N, Shaffer CM, Shi Y, Smith AV, Smith BH, Soranzo N, Spracklen CN, Strauch K, Stringham HM, Stumvoll M, Svensson PO, Szymczak S, Tai ES, Tajuddin SM, Tan NYQ, Taylor KD, Teren A, Tham YC, Thiery J, Thio CHL, Thomsen H, Thorleifsson G, Toniolo D, Tönjes A, Tremblay J, Tzoulaki I, Uitterlinden AG, Vaccargiu S, van Dam RM, van der Harst P, van Duijn CM, Velez Edward DR, Verweij N, Vogelezang S, Völker U, Vollenweider P, Waeber G, Waldenberger M, Wallentin L, Wang YX, Wang C, Waterworth DM, Bin Wei W, White H, Whitfield JB, Wild SH, Wilson JF, Wojczynski MK, Wong C, Wong TY, Xu L, Yang Q, Yasuda M, Yerges-Armstrong LM, Zhang W, Zonderman AB, Rotter JI, Bochud M, Psaty BM, Vitart V, Wilson JG, Dehghan A, Parsa A, Chasman DI, Ho K, Morris AP, Devuyst O, Akilesh S, Pendergrass SA, Sim X, Böger CA, Okada Y, Edwards TL, Snieder H, Stefansson K, Hung AM, Heid IM, Scholz M, Teumer A, Köttgen A, Pattaro C. A catalog of genetic loci associated with kidney function from analyses of a million individuals. Nat Genet. 2019 06; 51(6):957-972. PMID: 31152163.

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