In 1997, scientists discovered a gene that could potentially lengthen the lifespan of mice or cause them to age, depending on the level of gene expression. Gene expression refers to the extent to which information found on a gene is translated to something that results in physical attributes, such as eye color or blood type. The researchers saw that when the gene was highly expressed, the mice lived longer. When it was under-expressed, they got older. They named the gene “klotho,” an homage Clotho, who was one of the Three Fates in Greek mythology who was responsible for spinning the thread of human life.
What Does the Klotho Gene Do?
The klotho gene is responsible for the production of a specific protein, called the klotho protein. Proteins are very important substances in the body that help us survive for various reasons. They provide structure to cells, facilitate thousands of chemical processes vital to the body’s healthy function, and help protect our bodies from illness. The klotho protein is involved in various processes that, when interrupted, can cause signs of aging to appear.
Klotho protein occurs in two forms: secreted protein and membrane protein. Secreted klotho circulates in the bloodstream and plays a role in the regulation, activation, and inhibition of various activities throughout the body. Membrane klotho behaves as a receptor on the surfaces of cells that interacts with a hormone responsible for regulating the amount of vitamin D and phosphate in the kidneys. These substances are vital to numerous processes in the body, and low levels have been shown to be associated with symptoms of aging. For example, decreased secretion of phosphate has been linked to the development of chronic kidney disease.
What is Klotho Therapy?
Since its discovery, klotho has been researched for its role in the body as well as for its potential to prevent certain age-related diseases, such as chronic kidney disease and cancer. Klotho therapy is the administration of artificially produced klotho protein to replace declining levels of the protein, or to augment naturally low levels of the protein. Scientists have discovered that increasing the amount of klotho protein in the body allows normal functions to operate at their maximum level, potentially preventing age-related conditions.
What Are the Potential Benefits of Klotho Therapy?
Researchers are currently studying klotho protein for its therapeutic effects on the body. Benefits of klotho therapy may include:
● Suppression of tumors: Klotho protein is thought to suppress the ability of cancer cells to metastasize.1
● Prevention of diabetes: Decreased levels of klotho protein are associated with decreased insulin production, leading to increased blood glucose levels.2 Klotho therapy can help restore natural insulin production and potentially restore healthy blood glucose levels.
● Prevention of chronic kidney disease: The failure of phosphate excreted into the kidneys (also known as phosphate retention), associated with lower levels of klotho protein, is observed in patients with chronic kidney disease.1
● Slowing of the aging process: Male mice with overexpressed klotho protein have been observed to live as much as 20 to 30.8 percent longer.
● Improvement of cognitive function: Individuals who have higher levels of klotho protein maintain brain size and function longer than individuals who have lower levels of klotho protein.3
When Will Klotho Therapy Be Available?
It is not yet known when klotho therapy will be available for human treatment. Scientists, in conjunction with various research companies, are working to provide the first klotho therapy treatment available to humans.
1. Kuro M. Klotho and the Aging Process. Korean J Intern Med. 2011 Jun; 26(2): 113–122. Published online 2011 Jun 1. https://doi.org/10.3904/kjim. 2011.26.2.113
2. 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
3. Konstantinos A, David B, Luke B, Giovanni C, Dena D, Eric K, Joel K, Virginia S, Lei Y, Bruce M, Jennifer Y. Variation in longevity gene KLOTHO is associated with greater cortical volumes. Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2015 Mar; 2(3): 215–230. Published online 2015 Jan 26. https://doi.org/10.1002/acn3.161