It was just a passing mention in a recent email exchange with a client, but it certainly raised my eyebrows.
Have you heard about The Dog Aging Project currently underway at the University of Washington?
The Dog Aging Project is led by two molecular biologists and UW pathology professors, Dr. Daniel Promislow and Dr. Matt Kaeberlein. Their idea was initially presented at an October 2014 symposium in Seattle.
Planning and fund-raising for the research began following the symposium. There are two primary goals for the project.
One goal is to complete a long-term study of aging in dogs and cats
Similar aging studies have been performed with human subjects by monitoring their health with periodic checkups. While these studies have led to medical advances, they take decades to complete.
Following and studying a pet’s health history, with a focus on biological and environmental factors will require a fraction of that time. The hope is that lessons learned from the human studies can be combined with the dog and cat results to determine why some pets live longer, disease free lives.
Another goal is to conduct and study a short-term trial of a promising drug
Rapamycin, an anti-rejection drug currently used by organ transplant patients, has shown promising results in early trials with mice. Results from these mouse trials include the slowing or reversal of age-related issues, including decreased heart function, immune and cognitive decline, and some cancers.
The initial short-term trial of the Dog Aging Project, currently underway, uses a group of 32 dogs.
These dogs have been separated into four groups, three of which are receiving different low level doses of rapamycin. A fourth group is receiving a placebo. Pet parents do not know which group their dog is in.
This initial trial is expected to last for 3-6 months. During that time, the dogs will periodically be evaluated to monitor heart function, immune function, activity, body weight, and cognitive measures.
The next phase of the study will follow a group of dogs for life
A second group of dogs is now currently being considered to participate in a longer term study. The dogs currently involved in the short-term study will be given priority should their parents choose to continue.
This second group will be monitored throughout their life to determine whether there are significant improvements in healthy aging and lifespan as a result of rapamycin .
According to the researchers, they “anticipate that rapamycin could increase healthy lifespan of middle-aged dogs by 2-5 years or more.”
It may not be too late for you to participate in this long term study.
Have a look at the Dog Aging Project website and click the “Join Us” link on that site if you’re interested.
If you apply and are selected, please let us know. We’ll be sure to pass the news along to our client who first mentioned the study. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled that her comment led to another Smiley Dog family member getting involved!
Read more at the Dog Aging Project website