It is believed that the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon spent much of his life searching for the “Fountain of Youth” on the newly-discovered American continent. This mythical water source was thought to provide those who drink from it with eternal life and lasting health. Today people have, for the most part, given up on searching for a physical fountain of youth, but the search for ways to extend life and improve health across the lifespan continues.
This never-ending human quest can be most easily recognized in cultural trends like Botox, plastic surgery, and fad diets and workouts. But what is science doing to advance the quest for longevity? The answer is that scientists have also been working hard to find a solution to aging. Recently, they’ve discovered a link between the naturally occurring human protein, called klotho, and the incidence of aging symptoms. Scientists around the world are now studying the effects of klotho therapy on a variety of age-related symptoms.
How Does Klotho Affect Aging?
The gene for klotho protein is expressed in the kidneys, and its expression can affect the production and utilization of klotho protein throughout the body. Since its discovery in 1997, klotho has been studied extensively in mice. It has been observed that hampering the klotho gene leads to an increase in aging symptoms like cognitive decline, kidney function, advanced onset of conditions like diabetes and cancer, and ultimately premature death. At the same time, it has been observed that an overexpression of this particular gene can cause a delay in these same symptoms, essentially slowing the aging process in mice. This over-stimulation of klotho protein has been shown to increase the lives of mice by 20-30%. It has been noted that as mice age, their level of klotho protein naturally diminishes, but if they are genetically engineered to continue producing klotho at higher levels over time, they will see better health outcomes and slower age-related decline.
Who Can Benefit from Klotho Therapy?
Klotho therapy may be a viable treatment not only for those looking to quell the onset of aging, but also for those who are experiencing or at risk for developing kidney disease, cancer, and diabetes. It has been observed that some people have lower levels of natural klotho protein than others, while those who exhibit higher klotho protein function than others also demonstrate an advantage when it comes to staving off age-related cardiovascular conditions that often lead to earlier mortality. This can mean that there is hope in klotho therapy for those who naturally produce less klotho protein than others.
The Future of Aging with Klotho Protein
Human trials studying the effects of klotho therapy have not yet begun, however they are expected within the next two years. Scientists are working to reduce the common risks associated with these kinds of trials, so that they can get to work understanding the role klotho protein plays in human aging and ultimately cure many age-related conditions.