Scientists have discovered a new anti aging molecule, Klotho named after the Greek God who spins life's thread. The protein product of the gene has been believed to play a very important role in the aging process. Mice that lacked expression of the gene showed symptoms of aging, while over expression is associated with an increased life span.
The protein is secreted in the blood. The working mechanism however remained unclear. A research recently carried out on cultured cells (grown in laboratory conditions) and in experimental animals has now revealed that the protein works by increasing the cells ability to inactivate reactive oxygen species.
The protein has been found to act by activating an enzyme called manganese superoxide dismutase (found in the mitochondria of the cell), which hydrolyses the harmful superoxide to less harmful hydrogen peroxide.
Free radicals are chemical entities that contain free electrons and because they contain free electrons, they are very reactive. They react with several biologically important molecules such as DNA, lipids and proteins and destroy them. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) is the collective term for oxygen derived free radicals. Free radicals have been held responsible in the cellular processes associated with aging.
Furthermore, the existence of free radicals in living systems has been implicated in causing certain degenerative diseases, infertility and even cancer. There has been an increasing focus towards the manipulation of these small molecules to prevent diseases.
The research may eventually pave way for the development of anti-aging drugs, the ultimate goal of mankind and pharmaceutical companies alike.