American Edna Parker, the world's oldest known person, will celebrate her 115th birthday on Sunday, defying mind-boggling odds.
World's oldest person set to turn 115
By Katie Franklin and agencies
Her achievement was recognised by Guinness World Records last August after the death of a Japanese woman four months her senior.
There are only 75 people alive - 64 women and 11 men - that are 110 or older, according to the Gerontology Research Group, a California-based organisation that verifies reports of extreme ages.
Mrs Parker, who was born April 20, 1893, has been a widow since her husband Earl died of a heart attack in 1938.
She has also outlived her two sons - Clifford and Earl Jr - but is far from lonely with five grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren to keep her company.
"We don't know why she's lived so long," said Don Parker, her 59-year-old grandson.
"But she's never been a worrier and she's always been a thin person, so maybe that has something to do with it."
Scientists who study longevity hope that Mrs Parker can help unlock the secrets to long life.
Two years ago, researchers from the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University took a blood sample from Mrs Parker for the group's DNA database of supercentenarians.
Her DNA is now preserved with samples of about 100 other people who reached the 110-year milestone, and whose genes are being analysed, said Dr Tom Perls, an aging specialist who directs the project.
"They're really our best bet for finding the elusive Holy Grail of our field - which are these longevity-enabling genes," he said.
On Friday, a birthday party for Mrs Parker was held at her nursing home in Shelbyville, Indiana.
A smiling Mrs Parker looked on as relatives and guests released 115 balloons into the sky to celebrate her milestone.
Edna Parker (20 April 1893 - 26 November 2008)
the oldest person who ever lived?
The world's oldest ever supercentenarian: Jeanne Calment (1875-1997)
and further reading
The Indy Gene
Yoda the Ancient
Oberia Coffin: 122(?)
Reengineering the body?
Stress, telomerase and aging
Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper
Forever Young (Youth Group)
Caloric restriction prolongs life
New treatments for aging brains
World's Oldest Supercentenarians
The world's oldest supercentenarian: Jeanne Calment