A group of researchers are advocating for clinical trials in household dogs to test methods of gently slowing aging that so far are largely studied in mice only. The high level goal here is to produce more rigorous data in longer-lived mammals, something that is presently lacking. If as a side-effect it helps to raise awareness of the potential to extend healthy human life spans through progress in medical science, then all to the good. At this point the researchers have turned in part to the public and philanthropy to raise funds for the project, and are going about it in a fairly organized way. It is good to see the scientific community developing these skills, as this form of fundraising coupled with greater involvement of donors will become increasingly important in the future:
For millions of people, pets are considered part of the family. Unfortunately, companion animals such as dogs age rapidly and have relatively short life expectancies. Scientists want to change this. Research in the biology of aging has made tremendous strides over the past several years, with a few interventions found capable of slowing aging and extending lifespan in small mammals such as mice and rats. These same interventions could provide dogs with two to five or even more years of additional healthy, youthful life.
The Dog Aging Project is a unique opportunity to advance scientific discovery while simultaneously providing enormous benefit for people and their pets. We believe that enhancing the longevity and healthspan - the healthy period of life - in peoples' pets will have a major impact on our lives. To accomplish this goal, we are creating a network of pet owners, veterinarians, and scientific partners that will facilitate enrolling and monitoring pets in the Project. The Dog Aging Project has two major aims: a longitudinal study of aging in dogs and an intervention trial to prevent disease and extend healthy longevity in middle-aged dogs.
The first phase of this study will enroll middle-aged dogs (6-9 years depending on breed) in a short-term (3-6 month), low-dose rapamycin regimen and follow age-related parameters such as heart function, immune function, activity, body weight, and cognitive measures. These animals will then be followed throughout life to determine whether there are significant improvements in healthy aging and lifespan. The next phase of the study will enroll a second cohort of middle-aged dogs into a longer-term, low-dose rapamycin regimen designed to optimize lifespan extension. As with phase one, several age-related parameters will be assessed before, during, and after the treatment period. Based on the mouse studies, we anticipate that rapamycin could increase healthy lifespan of middle-aged dogs by 2-5 years or more.
We believe that improving healthy lifespan in pet dogs is a worthy goal in and of itself. To be clear, our goal is to extend the period of life in which dogs are healthy, not prolong the already difficult older years. Imagine what you could do with an additional two to five years with your beloved pet in the prime of his or her life. This is within our reach today, with your help.