Ever since a cardiologist in Japan discovered in 2005 that increasing the Klotho gene in mice extends their life, the gene aptly named after the Greek Goddess, who spins the thread of life, has captured the spotlight and generated volumes of anti-aging research.

Klotho, mostly produced in the kidney and circulated as a protein, helps regulate insulin in the body and is considered involved in aging. Patients with chronic kidney failure no longer produce normal amounts of Klotho, which some scientists believe explains degenerative conditions of kidney failure, such as arteriosclerosis, osteoporosis, and skin atrophy. As a result, doctors have found that restoring Klotho as a therapy for patients with kidney failure helped improve renal function. But researchers continue to study the best way to administer Klotho to patients.

Researchers have injected Klotho into the DNA of mice, but that process hasn’t proven applicable to humans. There has been more success in combining the Klotho protein with human DNA as a method of administering the protein. This method helped reduce the deterioration of kidney function and damage in patients suffering from renal failure, making this recombinant Klotho a more practical and effective therapy. But there are challenges with preparing the protein for delivery, identifying a sufficient dose for effectiveness, and extending its usefulness past its short expiration period.

Researchers also have directly injected a Klotho protein combination into DNA and administered it into a small, harmless virus as a delivery method. While only a few studies identifying these deliveries have been completed, their success has been verified.

There are some drug and diet therapies used to increase human Klotho levels, including phosphate restrictors, vitamin D, ACE inhibitors used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure, oral hypoglycemic medications like thiazolidinediones used to treat type 2 diabetes, and statins used for high cholesterol. However, these drugs have not been proven to successfully increase Klotho consistently in humans and likely will not work for advanced chronic kidney disease when the ability to increase production is not possible.

More research is needed to perfect the gene combination therapy that has been most successful in replacing and supplementing Klotho for patients with chronic kidney disease.