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More to Lose

People with a certain variant of the Klotho gene, which has been associated with longevity, have increased gray matter volume and better executive function throughout their lives, report researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

In a multi-stage study drawing on two cohorts of more than 200 participants each, UCSF's Dena Dubal and her colleagues examined the relationship between the KL-VS variant and gray matter volume. Being heterozygous for the variant, they report, was associated with increased right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex volume, a region of the brain involved in executive function and subject to decline in aging.

Further, Dubal and her colleagues found that people heterozygous for the variant of all ages also had better working memory and processing speed, suggesting that it improves baseline volume and function.

People homozygous for the variant, meanwhile, had shorter lifespans and smaller brains and worse cognitive function.

As the Los Angeles Times notes, this finding may mean that people heterozygous for the variant aren't immune to brain shrinkage as they age, they may just start with more to lose.

"By having a reserve there of resilience, maybe individuals would be buffered against effects of diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or schizophrenia," Dubal tells the LA Times.

She also tells the Guardian that raising Klotho levels, as this variant does, could represent a new avenue for treating conditions like Alzheimer's disease.