Scientists have discovered a naturally occurring hormone that can extend the lifespan of mice by as much as 30%. Mice lacking the gene for klotho began showing signs of premature aging around 3 to 4 weeks of age and die after about two months when compared to an average life span of 2 years. This has indeed opened up new avenues into improving human longevity.
The hormone is produced in the brain and kidney in some animal species, which then leaks into the blood stream. It is named after a Greek God, Klotho, who is held to control controlled the length of human life. Mice that were specifically designed to produce large amounts of the hormone were found to have an increased life span of 31 % and 19 % when compared to normal mice.
The hormone has been found to act by increasing the body's resistance to insulin, and thereby increasing the life span. Low-calorie diets that prolong life, for example, increase insulin resistance.
The hormone is also found in humans, and researchers are interested in analyzing if long-lived people have above-average levels in their blood. The hormone has a drawback, however: It decreases fertility and increases susceptibility to diabetes.
With our improved understanding about the molecular mechanisms behind ageing and with novel techniques being invented to manipulate the genome, a cure for aging is not too far.