Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have found that the loss of an anti-aging gene may contribute to the development of macular degeneration. In fact, during their animal studies, scientists discovered that the loss of this gene led to retinal degeneration in mice.
The ‘aging-suppressor gene’ in question, known as ‘Klotho’ protein (KL), is responsible for maintaining the health and function of both mouse and human retinas by protecting against oxidative stress and inhibiting VEG-F, thereby preventing blood vessel growth in the eye (the main cause of wet macular degeneration).
Further, Klotho has the ability to regulate phagocytosis of the outer segment of photoreceptors in the retina. This process promotes the renewal of photoreceptors, and if it is eliminated, these photoreceptors die and eventually cause blindness. In total, the team discovered no less than four important functions that Klotho provides the human retina, further proving the gene is critical to the health of the light sensitive tissue.1
Sounds like a fascinating discovery, doesn’t it? Well, this isn’t the first time scientists have studied the synthesizing hormone. In fact, Japenese researchers discovered Klotho more than 10 years ago and their findings were equally remarkable. Their studies revealed that when Klotho is mutated, a mouse that would normally have a life span of 2 years was only able to survive about two months. They also concluded that mice who over expressed Klotho had unusually long life spans.
For the above reasons, researchers are considering Klotho as a therapy for those with dry or wet macular degeneration. They speculate that it is possible that gene or cell therapy could help reintroduce Klotho in aging, degenerative retinas and perhaps ‘reverse’ the effects of macular degeneration. Though more research must be completed to directly link the malfunction of Klotho to macular degeneration in humans, the future of this potential treatment is certainly intriguing.
What do you think? Do you think this ‘anti-aging’ gene is the answer to blindness caused by AMD?