New research findings published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology suggest that the presence of a certain gene predetermines one’s cognitive abilities later in life. UC San Francisco researchers concluded a study of the Klotho allele gene, more commonly known as KL-VS, and found that this gene which is linked to longevity results in more brain mass in the part of the brain that is engaged when completing such tasks as decision-making and planning. These important findings bear repercussions for developing strategies to prevent cognitive degeneration due to Alzheimer’s disease.
UC San Francisco study confirms earlier findings
Klotho is an enzyme that has been found to play an important role in the onset of various degenerative conditions, such as osteoporosis, arteriosclerosis and skin atrophy. Mutation in the protein contributes to bone density loss and health issues related to aging. Klotho is produced in the brain and kidneys, and serves as a regulator for many of the body’s routine processes. Earlier studies concluded that older and middle-age persons who carry the KL-VS gene scored higher on a range of cognitive tests. When using mouse models, KL-VS was found to strengthen the link between neurons, learning skills and memory capacity.
UC Researchers used a study group of 422 men and women, over the age of 53, in good health and with healthy cognitive functioning. Their brains were scanned to measure the size of various brain areas. Researchers then sought to determine if variations in size had to do with the presence of a single copy of the gene, two copies or no gene at all. Researchers found that the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDFLPC) volume had diminished for the entire study group. But, for those with a single copy of KL-VS, the shrinkage was less severe.
Another tool in the fight against cognitive disease
The fact that single-gene carriers exhibited a larger rDFLPC volume caused researchers to conclude that klotho allele may be responsible for enhancing neuron connections. The ability to identify the presence and character of KL-VS may allow accurate predictions of cognitive degeneration later in life, providing a vital tool in the effort to develop preventative strategies for neurological diseases.