Longevity is boosted by a newly discovered gene variant: Klotho. This gene is a hormone and has previously been associated with long life, but this new discovery ties it to improving the memory and ability to learn. A team of scientists led by the Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco, found that those who have this gene do better on cognitive tests and have better overall performance.
There is a cell receptor that is crucial to forming memories. When the action was increased, it strengthened the connections between neurons that make learning possible. That is known as synaptic plasticity. It is believed that because it improves cognitive ability, that it could potentially treat Alzheimer’s disease. It is the elevated levels of Klotho protein, that seem to improve a greater cognitive reserve, thus, enhancing longevity.
Dr. Dena Dubal MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology, the David A Coulter Endowed Chair in Neurodegeneration and aging at UCSF and lead author of the study, commented that “cognitive frailty” is the biggest biomedical challenge in the world’s aging population. Enhancing brain function, she said, would be a big impact in individual’s lives, as was published in Cell Reports.
Approximately one out of five who carry a single copy of the KL-VS variant of the Klotho gene, do have more of the protein in their blood. The team’s report was verified with genetic, biochemical and behavioral, as well as electrophysiological experimentation in mice. There were also three separate researches done over a three-year period, on over 700 humans without dementia between the ages of 52 and 85.
Those suffering from age-related cognitive decline, were not necessarily protected even though they carried the KL-VS allele. What was so interesting and amazing, was that in looking closer at the gene variant, what was engineered in the mice showed that they responded and were capable of learning at all stages of life. The mice showed superior working memory, and when tested for spatial learning they did twice as well. When the brain mouse tissue was analyzed, they had twice as many synaptic connections. When a drug was given to block the reaction of receptors, then the Klotho-stimulated mice lost the advantage in their cognitive memory.
Those who live longer have higher levels of Klotho in their bodies. Dr. Dubal believes that this hormone could one day, potentially treat Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. Through all of these studies, they now believe that rather than protecting the brain from aging, this homone will make people smarter and enhance it. There was a connection that was strengthened between brain cells when the Klotho was given to the mice. Dubal says that their goal is to improve the lives of those who are suffering from diseases of the brain, thus, longevity or cognitive function can be boosted by this newly discovered gene variant: Klotho.
It is still unknown if the Klotho levels could be influenced by diet, exercise or brain activity. Researchers however are excited, as they feel that it gives them something else encouraging to look into. Klotho was initially discovered in 1977. What they have not yet figured out is why carrying two copies of the Klotho impairs brain function, yet, one copy enhances function.
Dr. Molly Wagster, of the National Institute on Aging, did comment that researchers are dismissing old notions of the aged brain and its capabilities, or not. She commented that they can target more interventions and prevention as they learn more about the capabilities of the brain. There could be a key in blood-transfusions, in that Klotho is more abundant in younger blood. Researchers agree, that the good news is that an old-brain can be reactiavted,which proves that it is not frozen in time. This is confirming that longevity and cognitive function are being boosted by this newly discovered gene variant: Klotho.
By: Jill Boyer-Adriance
Southern CA Public Radio