Researchers have discovered an anti-aging protein which may be the key to treating a series of diseases including cancer and diabetes.
A family of molecules called Klotho proteins ( named after the Greek goddess who weaved the thread of life) are mostly known for their ability to prolong human life.
Studies conducted in 1990 revealed that mice with mutated Klotho genes suffered from a condition which rendered them with shorter lifespans. More so, the rodents became infertile and, in some cases, developed arteriosclerosis, osteoporosis, and emphysema. However, the study did discover that overexpression of Klotho genes could extend the lifespan of mice by changing insulin and signaling growth factor 1 akin to insulin.
Scientists from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, focused on the structure of these proteins to better understand their role in the human body. The recent findings suggest Klotho proteins to be key in treating many life-threatening conditions.
The Klotho family consists of two receptor proteins, named alfa and beta. They are located on the membranes of certain tissues and work in conjunction with endocrine FGF molecules. These molecules are responsible for regulating metabolic processes in tissues and organs, including the brain, liver, and kidneys.
Researchers first discovered that beta-Klotho is the primary receptor for FGF21, a hormone produced by the body when it’s starving. FGF21 was found to increase insulin sensitivity and enhances glucose metabolism to trigger weight loss.
“Like insulin, FGF21 stimulates metabolism including glucose uptake,” said Joseph Schlessinger, lead author of the study and a professor at Yale School of Medicine.
Professor Schlessinger claims that the hormone can increase the burning of calories without changing food intake.
According to the study, published in the journal, Nature, if the hormone can be simulated pharmacologically, it could help treat conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
More so, researchers found an enzyme resembling the FGF21 hormone, which is able to break down sugars, effectively lowering blood glucose levels.
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