For the very first time, researchers have been able to carefully examine a family of longevity proteins named “Klotho” (after the Greek goddess believed to have spun the thread of life).
As a result of their efforts, they managed to gain new insight that may help to engineer innovative treatments for a wide range of diseases such as obesity, cancer, and diabetes. This new information has the potential to help with the development of various anti-aging therapies.
Studies done in the late 1990s revealed that mice with a mutated strain of Klotho genes suffer from a disorder that is similar to premature aging. For instance, they had much shorter life spans, were infertile, and in some cases even developed conditions such as skin atrophy, emphysema, osteoporosis, and arteriosclerosis.
Later studies also showed that an over expression of Klotho genes prolonged the lifespan of mice by manipulating insulin and the insulin-like growth factor 1 (signaling).
There are two kinds of proteins in the Klotho family, beta and alpha. Both of them serve as receptors and are situated on the membranes of particular tissues. They work together with molecules referred to as endocrine FGFs, which dictate metabolic processes in organs and tissues such as the liver, kidneys, and brain.
FGFs and Klotho proteins work in close proximity. In fact, researchers interested in the study of longevity have over the years argued over whether both these elements are the molecules actually responsible for reversing the effects of aging.
With the use of X-ray crystallography, those involved in the project were also able to create a detailed picture of beta Klotho’s structural makeup.
As a result, they found that beta-Klotho was the primary receptor for FGF21, which is a hormone that is formulated during starvation. The FGF21 was also shown to have a wide range of effects on the body such as increasing insulin sensitivity and promoting better glucose metabolism to help induce weight loss.
According to scientists, if the activity of Klotho could be stimulated using pharmacologically means, it could end up being very useful when it comes to treating conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
In their paper, the team also highlighted the diversity of FGF21; including the fact that it is 10 times more potent, thereby giving it great potential for different kinds of therapeutic purposes.
In addition, they also provided evidence of how glycosidase, which has a similar structure to Klotho and helps break down enzymes, could evolve into a viable hormone receptor with the ability to lower blood sugar levels. Researchers also stated that all this was possibly not a coincidence.
According to experts working in longevity, this new research comes as a result of a current need for more effective and productive treatment options for conditions like cancer, obesity and diabetes.