A family of proteins involved in the ageing process could help create future diabetes treatments, researchers have said.
Previous studies have shown that Klotho proteins – named after a Greek Goddess – can affect insulin sensitivity, an important element in preventing type 2 diabetes.
In Greek mythology, Clotho spun the thread of life and when cut, it signalled it was time for someone to die. The protein, named after Clotho, is associated with longevity within the human body and involved in slow ageing.
A US research team from Yale University wanted to take a closer look at how it, so they focused their efforts on the two proteins, alpha and beta, that are in the Klotho family. The molecule binds to hormones, known as endocrine FGFs (fibroblast growth factor).
FGFs are used to control important metabolic processes in the kidneys, liver, brain and other organs. During their work, the team found the beta molecule is the primary receptor for the hormone that produces starvation.
Senior study author Joseph Schlessinger, chair of pharmacology at Yale School of Medicine, said: “Like insulin, FGF21 stimulates metabolism including glucose uptake. In animals and in some clinical trials of FGF21 it shows that you can increase burning of calories without changing food intake, and we now understand how to improve the biological activity of FGF21.”
They say if they can find a way to stimulate the way FGF21 works this could help create new treatments for not just diabetes, but also obesity and some cancers.
During the trial, they also made another significant discovery involving an enzyme called glycosidase that they believe lowers blood sugar, another important element for helping to treat diabetes in the future.
Dr Schlessinger now plans to expand on their findings. He said: “The next step will be to make better hormones, make new potent blockers, do animal studies, and move forward. More studies are already in the pipeline.”
The findings have been published in the Nature journal.

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