It's a paradox. On the banks of beautiful Lake Garda in northern Italy lies the town of Limone. Cultivations of lemons and other citrus fruits are plentiful. Yet there is a puzzle that is difficult for science to completely comprehend.
The inhabitants of Limone consume whatever they desire without using dietary restrictions or discretion. Their cholesterol count and triglycerides are dangerously high, but they do not show any signs of atherosclerosis, heart disease or stroke. Thanks to local and church records most of the 1,000 inhabitants possess a special gene -- Apolypoprotein A-1 Milan. The mutant gene removes fats and plaques from arteries and deposits them into the liver where they are efficiently eliminated.
The discovery was made when a railway worker from Limone had been working and living in Milan for 20 years. Illness forced him into a hospital and physicians tending to him were alarmed to find his cholesterol and triglycerides extremely elevated, yet his arteries displayed no plaque buildup and his heart showed no signs of disease or damage.
They named the mutant gene and examined other family members for their DNA. It turns out that Limone had been an isolated community for hundreds of years and similar DNA was found in one large extended family—that of Cristoforo Pomaroli and Rosa Giovanelli who had been married in 1644.
In 1932 tunnels were dug and roads were paved, thus opening the area up to tourism. Researchers from Milan have extracted particles of this protein from family members and are running extensive experiments utilizing the mutant gene. Since the townspeople of Limone are living well into their 100s, scientists have dubbed this the "longevity gene." It's possible that applications will be used to treat people who suffer from high cholesterol, arterial plaque, heart disease and stroke.
Italians have a favorite toast for the New Year—they clink their raised glasses and say, "Cent Anni." Translation: May you live to be 100! The impossible has become a reality.