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Tackling Cognitive Decline with More Than Blueberries and Crosswords
Everyone wants to prevent or delay signs of aging as long as possible, whether they be physical signs (like wrinkles) or functional ones (like cognitive decline). And many individuals have incorporated new habits into their daily lives – from daily sudoku puzzles and word searches to eating more blueberries and pomegranates – in order to prevent cognitive decline. However, most people have never heard of the human protein klotho.
Klotho protein is a naturally occurring protein in the body that has been demonstrated to slow the aging process and symptoms of aging, including cognitive decline. What are the factors that influence your klotho protein levels? Are there ways to prevent or delay cognitive decline using klotho protein? Let’s take a look at what klotho protein is, how your body makes it, and what it has to do with cognitive decline.
What is Klotho Protein?
Klotho is a protein in the body that is associated with numerous biological processes involved in the onset of the symptoms of aging. Symptoms of aging are diverse and include cognitive decline, arthritis, diabetes, and even cancer. The discovery of the klotho gene in 1997 astounded scientists and has allowed us to conduct further research to better understand the aging process.
How Does the Body Produce Klotho Protein?
Klotho protein production in the body has been directly linked with genetic variants of the klotho gene. A study published in Naturein 1997, recognized as the discovery of klotho protein, showed that a mutation in the klotho gene resulted in a shorter lifespan in mice.1A later study published in Science in 2005 showed that a variant in the klotho gene for overexpression, or increased production of klotho protein, resulted in a longer lifespan in mice. An individual’s genetic makeup is the primary factor that affects his/her natural levels of klotho protein, but there are other factors that affect klotho protein production:
Age: Protein production declines with age. Scientists have noticed that after the age of 40, a healthy individual’s natural production of klotho protein starts to decline.2
Physical activity: A recent study found that consistent aerobic exercise — biking, swimming, walking, or running for a period of 12 weeks — increased levels of klotho protein in the body.3Participants were both athletically trained and untrained young adults and adults, in addition to individuals with coronary artery disease.
Stress: Decreased klotho protein levels have recently been linked to stress in women. Furthermore, women who reported being chronically stressed and additionally reported symptoms of depression were shown to have even lower levels of klotho protein than women who only reported being chronically stressed.4
How Does Klotho Protein Production Affect Cognitive Function?
A study published in 2017 in Cell Reportsshowed that improved cognitive function can be achieved in both young and aging mice after intravenous administration of a specific piece of the klotho protein. In fact, individuals who received treatment with the klotho protein fragment showed improvement even after showing signs of cognitive decline.5 These results suggest that klotho protein can prevent and even reverse signs of cognitive decline.
Although the exact mechanism and relationship between klotho protein and cognitive decline is not known, scientists feel optimistic in terms of developing treatments for age-related conditions using klotho protein. Currently, such treatment does not yet exist. But researchers and companies like Klotho Therapeutics are working on developing a klotho protein therapy for human treatment for the prevention of cognitive decline.
- Kuro-o M, Matsumura Y, Aizawa H, Kawaguchi H, Suga T, Utsugi T, Ohyama Y, Kurabayashi M, Kaname T, Kume E, Iwasaki H, Lida A, Shiraki-Iida T, Nishikawa S, Nagai R, and Nabeshima Y. Mutation of the mouse klotho gene leads to a syndrome resembling ageing. Nature. 1997;390:45–51. https://www.nature.com/articles/36285.
- Xu Y, and Sun Z. Molecular Basis of Klotho: From Gene to Function in Aging. Endocrine Reviews. 2015 Apr; 36(2): 174–193. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4399270/.
- Saghiv M, Sira DB, Goldhammer E, and Sagiv M. The effects of aerobic and anaerobic exercises on circulating soluble-Klotho and IGF-I in young and elderly adults and in CAD patients. Journal of Circulating Biomarkers. 2017;6. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1849454417733388.
- Prather A, Epel ES, Arenander J, Broestl L, Garay BI, Wang D, and Dubal DB. Longevity factor klotho and chronic psychological stress.Nature. 2015;5. https://www.nature.com/articles/tp201581.
- Leon J, Moreno A, Garay B, Chalkley R, Burlingame A, Wang D, and Dubal D. Cell. 2017;20(6):1360-1371. https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(17)30990-7?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2211124717309907%3Fshowall%3Dtrue.