There has been a lot of research done during the past two years on a protein called Klotho. Discovered in mice in 1997, researchers found that a deficiency of this protein in mice caused them to age more quickly and die prematurely. As such, researchers believe that higher levels of Klotho enable them to live longer, naming the protein after Clotho, a Greek fate who weaves the “thread of life.”
Given that the protein is closely tied to longevity, researchers have been looking at variations in the Klotho gene in humans, trying to see if there are certain variations that are more closely tied to a longer lifespan. For example, some variations have been tied to a lower incidence of stroke, reduced blood pressure levels, and lower cholesterol levels.
Even though research on the relationship between Klotho and aging is still being investigated, it is clear that Klotho is tied to an antioxidant mechanism. Antioxidants are responsible for scavenging free radicals throughout the body. These free radicals would otherwise cause DNA damage. By removing free radicals from the body, the Klotho protein can protect the body’s genetic code from harm.
Even though there are a lot of variations of the Klotho protein that are still being investigated, there are a few that stand out from the crowd. For example, the KL-VS haplotype changes the sequence and structure of the Klotho gene. While one copy of this haplotype can increase the body’s levels of Klotho, two copies can be detrimental to someone’s overall health, leading to reduced life expectancy. Researchers are still trying to figure out why this is the case.
In addition, having a single copy of the KL-VS haplotype can protect someone against a variety of diseases. This includes additional protection against diabetic retinopathy, which is one of the most common complications of diabetes. On the other hand, two copies can increase someone’s chances of developing diseases that can be detrimental to their overall health.
There are numerous other variations of this protein that are still being investigated. There are relationships between certain variations and cognitive decline, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis, and metabolic syndrome. It will be interesting to see what researchers uncover down the road.