Higher levels of the klotho protein may protect the kidney from declining function, a new study reports. These findings suggest that klotho may serve as a potential therapeutic target for the prevention and treatment of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
The klotho protein can exist in several forms. It can be expressed on the membrane, or outer edge, of cells. Part of this membrane protein is then shed into the blood or urine as a soluble functioning protein. Importantly, the membrane protein and soluble protein function differently. Soluble the klotho protein is thought to have anti-aging properties and can impact several cellular and molecular events.
The highest expression of klotho is found in the kidney. Previous studies have linked low levels of soluble klotho with kidney damage due to conditions such as oxidative stress and fibrosis.
There is little information regarding the effects of soluble klotho levels and changes in kidney function. To assess how klotho protein levels might affect the kidneys, David Drew, MD, MS, from Tufts Medical Center and his colleagues accessed data from the Health Aging and Body Composition study.
This study included 2,496 people with an average age of 75 from whom measurements of soluble serum klotho had been taken, as well as assessment of kidney function, over 10 years. Just over half (52%) of the participants were female. Associations between the levels of soluble klotho in the blood and kidney function or incidence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) were evaluated.
The researchers found that higher levels of soluble klotho were associated with a significantly lower likelihood of kidney function decline, after adjusting for various factors such as demographics, comorbidities, and kidney disease risk factors.
“We found a strong association between low soluble klotho and decline in kidney function, independent of many known risk factors for kidney function decline,” Drew said in a press release.
“This suggests that klotho could play a role in the development of chronic kidney disease, although additional research will need to confirm this. This also raises the possibility that klotho could be an important therapeutic target for future clinical trials,” he said.