Diabetes is a chronic metabolic health condition that affects more than 30 million people in the US — approximately 9.5% of the US population. It directly impairs the body’s ability to either produce or respond to the hormone insulin, which helps the body get rid of excess sugar in the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes is defined as the body’s inability to produce insulin, while type 2 diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to respond to insulin. Both conditions lead to higher than normal levels of blood sugar.
When blood sugar is too high, it can cause symptoms like:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
When blood sugar is too high over an extended period of time, it can lead to further health complications, such as kidney damage, cardiovascular disease, and nerve damage.
Scientists have discovered a connection between both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and a special protein, called klotho protein. This article will explore how variances in klotho protein levels can lead to the onset of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
What is Klotho Protein?
Klotho protein is a protein produced by the body that has many roles and aids in various processes. Lower levels of klotho protein have been linked to certain age-related diseases. For example, scientists have found that individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have lower levels of klotho protein compared to individuals who do not have type 2 diabetes, suggesting that the two may be connected.
How Do Low Levels of Klotho Protein Contribute to the Development and the Progression of Diabetes?
Scientists do not entirely understand the relationship between klotho protein and diabetes. However, there have been some discoveries that show a clear correlation between the two. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have discovered that insulin regulates the secretion, or release, of klotho protein.1
Additionally, a recent study showed that increasing klotho levels in mice had a positive effect on blood glucose regulation through increased levels of insulin secretion.2 Because of these findings, scientists have focused on trying to find a cure for diabetes using klotho protein.
A Potential New Therapy Using Klotho Protein
According to researchers at Yale School of Medicine, klotho therapy has the potential to treat type 2 diabetes due to its interaction with a hormone, called FGF21, that prompts insulin sensitivity and therefore blood glucose regulation.3 Additionally, scientists have seen promising results in a potential therapy involving a substance called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. During their research, they noted that by injecting mice with GABA, they were able to stimulate the production of klotho protein, and prevent or reverse the development of type 1 diabetes.4
Treating Diabetes in the Future
Although multiple studies have shown the potential benefit of the use of klotho as a treatment for various conditions, including diabetes, klotho therapy is not yet available to patients. Scientists and companies, like Klotho Therapeutics, are working on developing a safe and effective treatment using klotho protein.
- Insulin Regulates the Secretion of the Anti-Aging Hormone Klotho. Boston University medical Campus. http://www.bumc.bu.edu/provost/bumcnews/insulin-regulates-the-secretion-of-the-anti-aging-hormone-klotho/. Publication date unavailable. Accessed May 09, 2018.
- Forsberg EA, Olauson H, Larsson T, Catrina SB. Effect of systemically increasing human full-length Klotho on glucose metabolism in db/db mice. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. 2016 Mar;113:208-10. https://www.diabetesresearchclinicalpractice.com/article/S0168-8227(16)00025-5/fulltext.
- Secrets of Longevity Protein Revealed in New Study. Yale News. https://news.yale.edu/2018/01/17/secrets-longevity-protein-revealed-new-study. Published January 17, 2018. Accessed May 09, 2018.
- Prud’homme GJ, Glinka Y, Kurt M, Liu W, Wang Q. The Anti-aging Protein Klotho is Induced by GABA Therapy and Exerts Protective and Stimulatory Effects on Pancreatic Beta Cells. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 2017 Dec 2;493(4):1542-1547. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006291X17319915?via%3Dihub.