Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a neurodegenerative disorder in which symptoms of dementia worsen over time, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Although there is currently no cure, one study recently claimed that manipulating levels of a protein involved in brain cell communication can slow memory loss and may improve the quality of life for those affected. Researchers reported that increasing expression of this protein, known as klotho, in a mouse model of AD (from birth) rescues several of the cognitive deficits typically seen in these mice, as well as prolongs their life span.
While these findings are technically sound and the basic experimental controls are in place, certain aspects of the klotho story require further inquiry. For example, the effects of increasing the levels of klotho in the brain are heavily emphasized, but are not studied in other organ systems. Furthermore, although this study details the impact of increased levels of klotho from an early age, it fails to address whether increasing klotho levels after the onset of AD symptoms might have any therapeutic benefit. This is perhaps the most important question, since human patients are generally diagnosed later in adult life, when klotho levels are naturally low.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Liza Litvina, a graduate student in Neuroscience at Harvard University, as well as Dr. Sébastien Ricoult, a recent PhD graduate from the Integrated Program in Neuroscience at McGill University, for their expertise and commentary on the topic.
Managing Correspondent: Laura L. Smith
Protein Treatment Staves Off Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms (IFLScience)
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease? (Wiki)