Researchers at Newcastle University say they have identified the secret to longevity that would enable an individual live beyond 100 years and how to pass it on to offspring. Two factors -- low rates of inflammation in the body and long chains of human cells, or telomeres, that control aging -- are key, the scientists said.

Inflammation leads to a number of degenerative diseases in the elderly. Telomeres are specialized structures, known to cap the ends of chromosomes. These structures reduce in size as a person agers, accelerating the aging process.

The study involved 100 people whose telomeres shrank slowly, a trait also found in their children. The researchers said, however, the length of the telomere did not predict successful aging in people who are very old but revealed the connection between the length of the telomere and extreme old age.

“The study data show that those who have a good chance to become centenarians and those older than 100 maintain their telomeres better than the general population, which suggests that keeping telomeres long may be necessary or at least helpful to reach extreme old age,” said Professor Thomas von Zglinicki of Newcastle University.

The details of the study have been published in the online journal EbioMedicine. According to a 2012 estimates, the United Nations declared there are nearly 316,600 centenarians living around the world. The United States has a majority of centenarian population.