By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
After the science-fiction movie Limitless came out, in which an experimental chemical turns a struggling writer into a successful genius, the internet was abuzz with debate over whether such a drug was possible. It certainly seems to be on the horizon now, because researchers discovered that high levels of a protein our bodies produce called “klotho” not only increases our lifespan, it boosts intelligence! If they can create a drug that alters these protein levels in humans, it could be a way to improve everyone’s IQ.
The discovery was entirely an accident, since scientists were actually trying to figure out whether klotho protects the brain against aging. By analyzing 700 individuals between the ages of 55 and 85, researchers found that high amounts of the protein did not protect the brain from aging, which shocked them.
However, the real plot twist was that these individuals were generally more intelligent than the people with lower levels of klotho! Specifically, they consistently scored higher on exams for learning, memory, attention, and language than those with relatively lower amounts of the protein.
Klotho, named after one of the three Fates in Greek mythology who spun the threads of human destiny, certainly seems capable of changing our fate! So, scientists compared lab mice whose bodies produced great amounts of the protein to those that didn’t, and they found that klotho-rich rodents could outsmart their less fortunate kin! Why? Well, the protein seemed to strengthen areas in the brain related to learning and the creation of new memories.
Sadly, creating a drug that can directly alter klotho production in humans is years away. When the time does come to engineer an intelligence pill of some sort, it could offer a way to increase brain power and fight degenerative brain illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, which affects brain functions related to memory, language, attention, and behavior.
Featured image courtesy of neutrix on deviantART. Image of brain connection courtesy of Life Mental Health on Flickr.