Drug to Turbocharge the Brain in Old Age Has Come a Step Closer
July 25, 2023 (Daily Mail.com) – A drug to turbocharge the brain in old age has come a step closer.
A single injection of a protein called klotho can boost cognitive function in older monkeys, a study has found.
People who have a high level of klotho, because of a genetic quirk, have better brainpower and are less likely to develop dementia.
But scientists want to understand whether topping up the protein could help supercharge thinking skills.
Having previously discovered injecting mice with klotho could boost their cognitive function, they have now found the same result in rhesus macaques, which are more similar to humans, and suffer cognitive decline like us as they age.
This raises hopes for klotho, which is named after the mythological Greek figure Clotho who spun the thread of human life.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), carried out a study using 18 macaques with an average age of almost 22 – the equivalent of a 65-year-old person.
They gave a subset of the animals an injection of klotho equivalent to the level seen in people at birth.
These monkeys performed better in a test which required them to remember the location of a food treat among up to nine possible locations, following a delay of up to 32 seconds.
The study authors conclude: ‘Because klotho levels decrease in human aging, our data showing that a lower dose of klotho (comparable to five times baseline levels and similar to levels observed at birth) can enhance cognition in aged non-human primates suggest that peripheral treatment or replenishment with this endogenous hormone may prove therapeutic in aging humans.’
Neuroscientist Dr Dena Dubai, senior author of the study from UCSF, who had studied klotho for years, has previously said on its anti-ageing potential: ‘Ageing is the biggest risk factor for cognitive problems, and cognitive problems are one of the biggest biomedical challenges that we face.
‘Why don’t we just block ageing?’
The Japanese researchers who named klotho found that the amount produced by mice could affect how long the rodents lived.
People with higher levels also live longer.
Klotho is believed to boost brainpower by enhancing the function of synapses – the gaps between brain cells in which they ‘talk’ to each other using electrical signals.
In the current monkey study, the boost to cognitive function in monkeys injected with the protein was found to last for at least two weeks.
Neuroscientist Dr Dena Dubai, senior author of the study from UCSF, who has studied klotho for years, said: ‘Cognitive impairment is a problem in ageing and dementia, which can erode our language, memories and the essence of who we are.
‘But these results suggest that klotho could be a treatment which could really work in people, to keep our brains healthy in old age.
‘We need clinical trials urgently to see if that’s the case.’