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Clotho, one of the Three Fates of Greek mythology, carried the weighty responsibility of spinning the thread of human life. It seems fitting then that a protein linked to reducing and extending life spans should take its name from this mythic figure. Researchers discovered the klotho protein in 1997, when they found that diminished levels seemed to make the animals age faster. Conversely, mice genetically engineered to maintain elevated klotho levels live 30 percent longer than normal mice. Recent research hints that the protein itself could form the basis of anti-aging therapies.

Many studies have since established klotho as a longevity promoter, including in humans, with numerous protective effects on organs throughout the body. Its levels decline with age but some people with a version of the klotho gene known as KL-VS produce more of the protein and typically live longer. Now a new study, led by physician and neuroscientist Dena Dubal of the University of California, San Francisco, suggests klotho has potential as a therapy against brain aging and the maladies that come with it. The team found beneficial effects in young and aging mice on memory and learning and on some of the motor deficits found in Parkinson’s disease.

These results point to a possible therapeutic to address diseases of brain aging, such as Alzheimer’s, which are on the rise because of demographic trends. “Our life span has nearly doubled since the early 1900s,” Dubal says. “But there’s no effective medical therapy for this insidious problem of losing brain function with age and disease.”

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Scientific American

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