KTF: The Protein Keeping Our Blood Vessels Young

By Machlan Sawden

Nelson Hsieh, MD/PhD and his team at Case Western University in Ohio have discovered a way to manipulate the life span of a species of nematodes by artificially controlling levels of Kruppel-like transcription factors (KTF). These proteins are regulators of autophagy, a process that recycles toxic misfolded proteins and other molecular byproducts that build up over time as an organism ages and impede normal cellular function. The researchers found that lab-induced overexpression of KTF increased the lifespan of nematodes in an autophagy-dependent manner, while nematodes with decreased levels of KTF could not sustain autophagy and had shorter lifespans. This regulatory pathway was also observed in mammals as well, as mice with increased KTF expression experienced a delay in age-related blood vessel dysfunction. In humans, KTF levels have been observed to decrease with age. However, sustained levels of KTF can prevent age-related decline in blood vessel function that contributes to risk for hypertension, heart disease, and dementia. The team at Case Western now looks to understand how autophagy in the cells lining blood vessels improves blood vessel function and long-term health outcomes. Their research could have important implications for our understanding of blood vessel damage and aging in country in which heart disease is the leading cause of death. While KTF may not be the genetic fountain of youth, understanding the regulation of autophagy by KTF could initiate the development of interventions to slow the process of age-related blood vessel degradation and decrease risk for the deadly diseases associated with it.  


Case Western Reserve University. (2017, October 13). Worms reveal secrets of aging: Conserved pathway controls aging. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 16, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171013125120.htm