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Researchers Discover Gene That Enhances Cognitive Abilities

Update Date: May 10, 2014 03:56 PM EDT

People who possess a variant of longevity gene called KLOTHO, have improved brain skills like thinking, learning and memory, regardless of their age, sex or whether they have a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.

Researchers also observed that increasing the KLOTHO gene levels made mice smarter. The outcome might be the result of increased strength of connections between nerve cells in the brain, researchers said. 

"This could be a major step toward helping millions around the world who are suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other dementias," said Dena Dubal, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurology, the David A. Coulter Endowed Chair in Aging and Neurodegeneration at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and the lead author of the study, in the press release. "If we could boost the brain's ability to function, we may be able to counter dementias."

Klotho is the name of a Greek mythological goddess of fate "who spins the thread of life". 

Researches found that people who have one copy of a variant, or form, of the KLOTHO gene, called KL-VS, tend to live longer and have lower chances of suffering a stroke. Further, people who have two copies may live shorter lives and have a higher risk of stroke.

"This study shows the importance of genes that regulate the multiple aging processes involved in the maintenance of cognitive function," said Suzana Petanceska, Ph.D., program director in NIA's Division of Neuroscience. "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."

The study has been published in the Cell Reports.

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