Klotho, the Greek mythological goddess of fate, was believed to be the one who could cleverly “spin the threads of life.”That mythological belief may soon become a modern-day reality in the treatment of dementia.
In a study partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers at the University of California San Francisco discovered Klotho, a variant longevity gene KL-VS.
Studies of over 700 persons aged 52 to 85 showed that those with one copy of the naturally occurring genetic variant KL-VShave have greater thinking, learning, and cognitive abilities, regardless of any genetic predisposition for developing dementia.
Additionally, researchers believe that those possessing the gene have increased IQs, possibly by as much as 3 percent.
Multiple copies of the KL-VS variant or its gradual declining levels could be indicative of decreasing cognitive abilities and increasing disease processes caused by aging.
According to Suzana Petanceska, PhD, program director at the National Institute on Aging, “Understanding the factors that control the levels and activity of Klotho across multiple organ systems may open new therapeutic avenues for prevention of age-related cognitive decline and dementia.”
This is exciting news for the estimated 35.6 million people worldwide suffering from some form of dementia, with estimates of continued growth as high as 65.7 million by 2030.
It is also important news, given the unprecedented growth of America’s aging population. As the silver tsunami continues to sweep on, 10,000 persons will turn 65 every day by 2020.
Dementia Care Central demonstrates that the rates of dementia occurring in the United States will increase with the advancement of age, affecting the following percentages of the senior population:
- Age 71-79: 5 percent
- Age 80-89: 24 percent
- Age 90 and over: 34 percent
Dementia is a progressive brain disease that causes cognitive impairment. There are also a variety of health conditions that mimic dementia such as depression, thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, medication side effects, and the like. They could be reversed if properly treated.
Currently, victims of non-reversible dementia are not so fortunate. For them, every day can be progressively harder. Memory loss, confusion, disorientation and continuous decline in capacity to perform essential activities of daily living slowly but surely reduces their quality of life.
They will need some form to assistance to accomplish simple daily tasks, such as preparing meals, bathing, and dressing, along with grocery shopping and going on outings. In time, they will be completely overtaken by the dreadful disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and oftentimes strikes more women than men.
Of the more than 5 million Americans stricken with Alzheimer’s, approximately two-thirds of them are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Organization. In fact, once a woman is in her sixties she has a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
As the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, it is also the most costly condition plaguing our society, says the Alzheimer’s Organization. The organization estimates that the financial costs of treating Alzheimer’s in the U.S. throughout 2014 is staggering and projected as follows:
- Medicare: $113 billion
- Medicaid: $37 billion
- Out of Pocket: $36 billion
- Other: $28 billion
In short, dementia portends to be a major, age-related epidemic with serious consequences for human and financial capital. With the discovery of Klotho, there is hope for the possibility of preventing and stopping the progression of this deadly disease. Although preliminary, the research findings “suggest that a form of Klotho could be used to enhance cognition for people suffering from dementia,” says Roderick Corriveau, PhD, program director at NIH’s Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Going a step further, it would be ideal if humans were routinely tested genetically for the prevalence of dementia and assessed for their risk factors. Based on their outcomes, they could be offered appropriate treatment options that could potentially prevent dementia altogether — or stop it from progressing if the disease process has already begun. What hopeful threads of life to spin for those who would fall victim to this most debilitating disease!
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!