Recently, professor Li Xiaokun’s team from School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, WMU, together with researchers from New York University Medical Center have figured out the molecular structure of a protein called α-Klotho and how it can assist the transmission of a hormone signal to delay the senility. On 17th January, this result was published in top international comprehensive academic journal Nature(IF:40). Doctor Chen Gaozhi of WMU is first writer of this paper, while professor Liang Guang and graduate Fu Lili are by-liners, professor Li Xiangkun and professor Moosa Mohammadi from NYU are corresponding authors, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of WMU was first completed unit.
As a milestone discovery in the field of FGF (fibroblast growth factor), this research disproved a hypothesis that α-klotho, named after the goddess of sewing in ancient Greek mythology, was a factor which could independently adjust aging. From the structure of the ternary complex that has been figures out, it shows that as a non-enzymatic scaffold protein, its capacity of adjusting aging is achieved by combining FGF23 and FGFR1 to become a compound and with its assistant of the latter two. Existing study proves a close connection between the abnormal expression of FGF23 in vivo and the cause of kidney disease, indicating a key target to cure chronic kidney disease, thus this research has drawn a clear blueprint for developing new diagnostics and cure for kidney diseases. This research subversively pointed out that heparin, a polysaccharide which wildly exists in human organs, is a must for FGF23 family’s activation, thus clarified heparin is a master key to help receptors of all members of the large growth factors family to dimerize and function properly.
Professor Li Xiaokun’ s team have long been focusing on basic research on FGF family proteins and developing new drugs. Over 20 years ago, they successfully found a solution to a serious of engineering technical problem which had restricted its industrialization by genetic modification and reforming on endocrine FGF based on its structure. Over ten years ago, they took the lead in developing a serious of innovation drugs of FGF1 and FGF2 at the international level and their application has wildly cover the field of curing for burns, traumas and diabetic foot. The core members of the team, Xiao Jian, Zhang Yuhong, Lin Li, Zhao Yingzheng and Jin Taili, had a systematically research on the administration route and the delivering way of FGF to broaden the clinical range of application and its adaptation among the patients of growth factor drugs. Until 2017, three new drugs of class I developed by this team have been applied to 80 million patients, which has gained significant profit both economically and socially, and got second price of National Award for Technological Invention. In 2015, professor Li Xiaokun and his teammate Xiao Jian, Zhang Yuhong and so on got first prize of the National Prize for Progress in Science and Technology together with academician Fu Xiaobin’s team from PLA General Hospital.
The work which has been published on Nature this time is a tremendous breakthrough since the team started the National 863 Project “Development on Diagnostics of FGF23 Chronic Kidney Disease” in 2012 and national key project “PKC Regulation Network and Innovated Targeted Drugs of Diabetes and Its Complications” in 2017. This work is also one of the significant achievements since the research center of the construction and function of protein was jointly formed by NYU medical center and our university 5 years ago.