For centuries, people have been searching for a way to live longer. You may have heard the legend of the fountain of youth, a spring that one could bathe in or drink from to restore young age. Or you may be familiar with the Chinese practice of alchemy, which aims to create the “elixir of life” that could grant one who drinks it immortality.
Today, scientists are still trying to increase our lifespans. Currently, klotho protein is the subject of numerous research studies around the globe that are looking at slowing down the aging process. That’s because scientists have discovered that klotho protein has a significant impact on lifespan and the development of symptoms of aging.
What is Klotho Protein?
Klotho protein is a substance that is naturally produced by our bodies. It is part of multiple pathways in the body that are responsible for activating, regulating, and inhibiting certain processes. It also acts as a receptor for the regulation of essential vitamins and minerals.
How Does Klotho Protein Affect Aging?
Research has shown that in mice, overexpression of the klotho gene which produces klotho protein extended lifespan by as much as 30 percent, compared to mice with a normally functioning klotho gene.
Results and information gathered from various research initiatives have led scientists to work towards developing a potential new therapy called klotho therapy. The goal of klotho therapy is to reduce the risk of age-related disease with supplemental klotho protein. Below, we discuss how klotho protein may help slow down the aging process in humans in relation to specific age-related conditions.
Neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are characterized by impaired cognitive function. For example, people with these conditions start to have more and more trouble with reasoning skills and memory. Scientists have confirmed that mice with neurodegenerative disease have lower levels of klotho protein compared to mice without neurodegenerative disease. Another study showed that increasing klotho levels improved cognitive function in aging mice.1
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects the way in which the body responds to insulin, leading to elevated blood glucose levels. Too much blood glucose over a long period of time can lead to detrimental health complications.
One research study showed that both people and mice with type 2 diabetes had lower levels of klotho protein compared to those who did not have the condition. This study also concluded that increasing klotho protein levels in the body led to a decrease in blood glucose levels2.This finding has led scientists to believe that a klotho therapy can help restore healthy blood glucose levels in individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints that develops when the protective cartilage around the ends of the bones wears down. When there is no more cartilage left to protect the bones, they rub against each other and cause pain and swelling in the affected joints.
Klotho protein has been recognized as a possible treatment for osteoarthritis. This is because multiple studies have shown a relationship between the two. One study linked a variation in the klotho gene to the development of osteoarthritis in the hand.3 Furthermore, another study linked articular degeneration to lower than normal levels of klotho protein.4 These results strongly suggests that there is a correlation between klotho protein levels and the development of osteoarthritis.
Availability of Klotho Therapy
Klotho therapy is still in its developmental stages and is not currently available for human treatment. However, scientists are working on developing other treatment methods using klotho protein for humans suffering from or at risk for developing age-related conditions.
- Leon J, Moreno A, Garay B, Chalkley R, Burlingame A, Wang D, Dubal D. Peripheral Elevation of a Klotho Fragment Enhances Brain Function and Resilience in Young, Aging, and α-Synuclein Transgenic Mice. Cell Reports. 2017;20:1360–1371. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2017.07.024.
- Lin Y, Sun Z. In Vivo Pancreatic β-Cell–Specific Expression of Antiaging Gene Klotho: A Novel Approach for Preserving β-Cells in Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes. 2015 Apr;64(4):1444–1458. Published online 2014 Nov 5. https://doi.org/10.2337/db14-0632.
- Zhang F, Zhai G, Kato BS, Hart DJ, Hunter D, Spector TD, Ahmadi KR. Association between KLOTHO gene and hand osteoarthritis in a female Caucasian population. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2007 Jun;15(6):624-9. Published online January 30, 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17270470.
- Tilly EL, Ong T, Abadie J, Guicheux J, Beck L, Vinatier C. P040 Involvement of the anti-ageing protein klotho in chondrocyte autophagy and apoptosis during osteoarthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2018 Feb;77(Suppl 1):A1–77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/annrheumdis-2018-EWRR2018.62.