American scientists from various universities, including Washington and Texas A&M, announced the Dog Aging Project, an initiative designed to study the aging process in dogs. The ultimate goal is to understand how natural mechanisms work and find a way to slow them down in order to prolong the life of animals.
About 40,000 dog owners took part in the project. Each of them provided a complete medical history of their animal and agreed to complete a detailed questionnaire annually. It takes about three hours to collect information from one person. The project also sequenced the genomes of 8,500 dogs, and collected hair, blood and urine samples from some for additional analysis.
But that, as they say, is not all. Scientists further examine individual groups of dogs for specific diseases and disorders. They are trying to find biological markers that will detect an animal’s predisposition to disease before it develops. Ultimately, this could lead to the development of drugs that prevent or treat such diseases at an early stage, giving the dog a longer and healthier life.
The project will also test drugs with a potential anti-aging effect. The first in line is siralimus (aka rapamycin), an immunosuppressive drug that helps avoid organ rejection during transplantation. Laboratory tests have shown that the drug also prolongs life mice, but in larger mammals, the anti-aging effect has not yet been studied.
The drug is already being tested in dogs seven years of age and older. So far, only a couple of small tests have been carried out to confirm its safety. The second study, involving about 17 dogs, lasted 6 months. The results have not yet been officially published, but project co-founder Matt Kaberlein claims that the drug actually turned out to be safe for animals.
The Dog Aging Project isn’t the only one committed to helping dogs live longer. Biotech company Loyal set a similar goal. There is also a third group called Vaika which studies older sled dogs. Both projects are still at the data collection stage and have not provided concrete results.
But dogs are just the beginning. Drugs developed for animals can serve as the basis for similar drugs for humans. At the same time, successfully extending the life of pets will help people accept the idea that this is possible for them too.