Protein discovered in 1997 could treat brain disease
THE SANTA CLARA
April 23, 2015
What if the diseases of old age were a thing of the past — no more memory loss, dementia or impaired mobility?
Dr. Dena Dubal, the of University of California, San Francisco, thinks this could be a reality. The well-versed scientist visited Santa Clara Tuesday evening to give a lecture on longevity and the aging brain.
Both a neurologist and neuroscientist, Dubal is an assistant professor and the David A. Coulter Chair in Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease at UCSF, as well as the director at the Laboratory of Neuroscience and Aging.
“The world’s population is aging rapidly,” Dubal said. “This poses a major challenge because reproductive rates are in decline. We are really entering an aging world. It is estimated that the average number of elderly people will exceed 2 billion by 2050.”
To combat this emerging worldwide problem, Dubal and her team research the biology that extends lifespan and explore how that information could be used to improve human health.
With the knowledge of how to improve their lifespan, humans could “delay the onset of ill health,” so people are living not only longer but also healthier, Dubal said.
Her team’s research revolves around Klotho, a protein that was first discovered in 1997. More recently, scientists have discovered that higher expressions of Klotho extend lifespan in mice.
Moreover, those with higher Klotho show enhanced cognition. So not only does this protein let people live longer, it also makes them smarter.
Dubal hopes to take this information on Klotho and apply it to the treatment of crippling conditions such as dementia, for which a true cure continues to be elusive.
In fact, it has already been observed that when mice with Alzheimer’s disease were given increased levels of Klotho, their memories vastly improved and the effects of their disease were even reversed.
“Klotho may be a new way to treat brain disease, not by targeting the disease itself, but by increasing the brain’s resilience to the disease,” said Dubal.
Dubal said that decreasing levels of stress and getting enough sleep cause Klotho levels to increase slightly. However, there is much more research to be done before there is a complete treatment for brain diseases. Even so, Dubal looked positively at the research she has done and what remains ahead.
“Are we ready for a world with wise 100 year olds? I say yes!” Dubal said.
Hosted by Santa Clara’s Patricia Simone, associate professor of psychology, the presentation was a part of the Gerald and Sally DeNardo Lectureship of the Health and Science Horizons 2015 series.
Contact Maura Turcotte at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.