Monday, 18 Jul 2016 04:46 PM

A British biotech group has bought the genetic data of nearly 13,000 Italian residents of a Sardinian province where many people have lived to celebrate their 100th birthdays — and beyond.

Tiziana Life Sciences, a British company focused on cancer and diseases of the immune system, said it acquired a “biobank” containing the DNA of residents of the Ogliastra province in Sardinia, The Financial Times of London reports.

One in every 2,000 people in Ogliastra are 100 or older — five times the rate in most developed countries, and second only to the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The biobank includes more than 230,000 samples including frozen blood from 12,600 Ogliastra residents. The company has also gathered family medical reports and official records such as death certificates dating back more than 400 years.

“Can you make a magic drug to make people live longer? Probably not,” said Gabriele Cerrone, chief executive of Tiziana. “But you can compare the differences in their genes to other villages around the world and see if there are big alterations.

“Part of it is the environment and the diet, of course, but part of it might be something genetic that we don’t yet know about.”

He said the company hopes the trove of data would help researchers identify whether there were any particular genetic traits linked to longevity.

Italian and U.S. researchers are also studying centenarians who live in Acciaroli, a remote fishing village in the south of Italy with 2,000 residents — 300 of whom are 100 or older