Anti-aging gene also enhances cognition
A variant of the gene KLOTHO is known for its anti-aging effects in people fortunate enough to carry one copy. Now researchers find that it also benefits brain function by increasing overall levels of klotho in the bloodstream and brain. But the improvements in learning and memory associated with klotho elevation aren’t strictly tied to aging.
They do occur in aging mice, but also in young animals, according to a report published in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports (open access) on May 8th. That means klotho works to enhance brain power, but in an unexpected way. Aging is a primary risk factor for cognitive decline, lead author Dena Dubal explained. The question was: Would a factor known to play a role in long life have benefits for cognition too?
The researchers examined this question in three separate cohorts of people participating in aging studies of various kinds, adding up to more than 700 people. Their analysis showed that people with one of the life-extending variants of the KLOTHO gene scored better on cognitive tests. Because those effects were associated with higher circulating levels of klotho, the researchers turned to genetically engineered mice that express higher-than-normal levels of the life-extending substance.
Indeed, klotho worked there too. “Mice with elevated klotho performed twice as well as controls in some cognitive tests, such as remembering where a hidden platform was located in a water maze,” Dubal said. In other tests, the mice did better too, but in some cases only slightly.