As medicine advances, the world’s population gradually becomes older and older. Cardiovascular disease becomes more common as we age, and heart failure is a common result of many cardiovascular problems.
When left untreated, heart failure is the endpoint of many cardiovascular diseases. Strictly speaking, heart failure is a progressive event, where the heart gradually loses the ability to effectively supply blood to the body. Treating heart failure has proven problematic, as few therapeutic targets are known.
Alpha-Klotho (αKl) is a protein believed to be related to aging in animals. Normally bound to a cellular membrane in the liver, at some point, this protein is cleaved from the membrane and circulates into the blood. Levels of the soluble protein, called soluble Alpha-Klotho (sαKl), seems to rise with physical stress, smoking, and age and are thought to help protect the body from stress. Some believe it may also be related to heart failure.
In a new study, a team from Osaka University in Japan wanted to examine levels of sαKl in patients who were suffering from heart failure. Previous studies failed to show any significant relation between sαKl and heart failure, but the team noted that they failed to account for factors such as age and gender. This new study would take both into account.
The team gathered data from twenty-eight patients over eight years. All patients had severe heart failure. A measure of sαKl levels showed that those that responded well to standard treatment tended to have higher sαKl levels, while those who did not respond had lower levels. Segregating the data by gender showed that this observation was almost exclusively seen in men. This correlated with data from another study showing that smoking elevated levels of sαKl in men but not in women.
Alpha-Klotho’s role in heart failure is still unknown, with growing evidence suggesting it may play a protective role as an anti-inflammatory response to stress. It failed to correlate with standard markers of heart failure severity, so its function might be peripheral in nature. This study showed that when sαKl levels were elevated upon admission, a patient with severe heart failure seemed to respond well to treatment. This was seen more in men than women, however, suggesting a gender-dependent mechanism.
The study concludes, “We have identified sαKl as a novel biomarker for the responsiveness of treatment in heart failure patients with reduced EF. Serum levels of sαKl were different in male and female patients with heart failure. These findings might help develop personalized therapeutic strategies for patients with heart failure.”
Sources: Nature Scientific Reports, TEDx Talks