Is it possible to prolong the life of a dog? Scientists are working on it

Every dog ​​parent in the world wishes they could spend more time with their kids. Scientists have wondered for years whether such a concept was possible. Can we somehow make it so that our dogs live longer?

For now, things are still in the early stages of research, but there are some promising areas of research. Scientists have not only learned a lot about the age of dogs, but they also know a little more about human health and aging.

‘Dog Aging Project’

The Dog Aging Project co-directed by Matt Kaeberlein, who studies aging at the University of Washington in Seattle. In addition to understanding how dogs age, the project’s researchers hope to find a way to slow the aging process, Kaeberlein explains.

“I was like, man, I would love if I could slow down the aging process in my dog,” Kaeberlein recalls her “light bulb” moment 10 years ago.

About 40,000 dog owners have signed up to participate in the Canine Aging Project study. These participants provide their dog’s medical history and also fill out detailed annual surveys (takes about three hours).

RELATED: Scientists Need 10,000 Dogs To Help They Study Canine Aging

A subset of these approximately 8,500 dogs will have their genomes sequenced, and many will also be studied for fur, blood and urine.

Ultimately, the goal here is to find biological clues that can help researchers determine which dogs may be at risk for certain diseases. when they get old. From there, scientists can develop drugs to prevent or treat these diseases.

Kate Creevy, veterinary director of the Canine Aging Project, explains:

“We are eager to find out which types of diets, types of exercise and types of livestock are associated with better long-term outcomes so we can do things to help them have a better quality of life. better in the years to come.”

The Canine Aging Project is also working to determine what aspects of a dog’s lifestyle can help prolong its “life expectancy” (meaning the number of years it lives in a healthy condition, not just more years). ).

The Canine Aging Project plans to test several potential anti-aging drugs. One of those drugs, called rapamycin, has previously been tested on flies, worms and mice. It is being discovered as an anti-aging drug because rapamycin can mimic the effects of calorie restriction, which studies have shown prolongs the lifespan of some species.

“I believe that some of the interventions that we know of to prolong life and longevity in rats will work in dogs,” says Kaeberlein. “It’s really just a matter of showing it through clinical trials.”

So far, the Dog Aging Project has only run a handful of small safety tests. The drug appears to be safe according to a 6-month (unpublished) study involving 17 dogs.

Their research is underway and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s important work!

Research on ‘Vaika’ and DNA

Andrei Gudkov, Katerina Adrianova and Daria Fleyshman founded Vaika, another project studying aging (in dogs and humans). Their study focused on dogs who had retired from sled racing.

These researchers have spent the past four years caring for and following dogs between the ages of 8 and 11 for the rest of their lives. The retired sled dogs all come from kennels in the northern states of the US and Canada.

The main focus of Vaika’s studies is on DNA damage that builds up as dogs age. This DNA damage can send signals to the immune system to destroy affected cells, thereby damaging tissues.

According to Gudkov, a professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, some of this DNA damage is caused by the “retrobiome”. Retrobiome refers to ancient viral fragments that have been incorporated into the DNA of animals (and humans) over millions of years of evolution. In other words, the retrobiome may be responsible for the age-related decline in dogs and humans.

Working with this theory, Vaika is testing an experimental anti-aging drug that aims to block retrobiome activity in dogs. Half of the dogs in the trial will receive the drug, and the other dogs will receive a placebo. The researchers will monitor for signs of aging in all of these dogs.

It is hoped that these studies will provide Vaika with useful information on longevity.

‘Loyalty’ and epigenetic markers

Founded by Celine Halioua Loyal, a biotech start-up, aims to “clearly develop drugs that increase longevity and longevity”. Loyal’s research is a bit involved in both areas of interest from the previous two projects. They are looking for biological clues that aging is happening more quickly.

In addition to studying blood, saliva and urine samples, the Loyalty team will review “Epigenetic Marks”, are chemical groups that attach to DNA and control the protein production of genes. Because these epigenetic marks change over the lifespan of animals or humans, scientists have used this information to determine the biological age of the organism.

And of course, Loyal is also conducting clinical trials of the drug. The specifics are somewhat undisclosed, but a drug that will target larger dogs (people who tend to have a shorter life expectancy) and another that works similarly to rapamycin the Anti-Aging Project for Dogs is testing.

What can we learn from dogs about humans?

One thing seems pretty obvious in all of this: dogs are indeed an excellent model for studying human health. Like Elaine Ostrander from The National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland says:

“They’re eating our food, they’re walking our lawns with pesticides, they’re drinking whatever is in our water.”

There are some obvious differences between humans and dogs, but we also have many biological similarities.

“It seems that at the level of individual age-related diseases, it is very similar,” said Kaeberlein of the Dog Agin Project.

Not to mention: Because there is such an amazing variety of dog breeds, and the development of these breeds essentially involves genetic selection, it’s easy to study genetics in different types of dogs. easier than in humans. Discovering the genes involved in certain diseases in dogs can help scientists develop targeted treatments.

“We don’t have a way to do that very efficiently in humans,” Ostrander notes.

Yes, it’s heartbreaking that our dogs’ lives are relatively short. On the other hand, researchers can study the effects of potential anti-aging drugs over a dog’s lifetime, while that’s more difficult to do in humans.

Based on Gudkov:

“Studying this in people is… very impractical, because usually your own life isn’t long enough to see the fruits of your work. The lifespan of a dog is sufficiently shorter than that of a human, and allows us to do reasonable experiments and see the results. “

RELATED: 12 Signs of Aging Every Dog Owner Needs to Look for

If this all sounds a bit confusing, that’s because it is! While there are many theories and data backing this study, it’s clear that we don’t have any concrete answers as to why our dogs age so quickly or how. How can we slow it down?

MIT Technology Review included this study More details if you want to learn more. In the meantime, as you look at your older dog and wish they would stop growing old, think about all this promising research!

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