Scientists working on way to make dogs live longer – it’s already used in humans

Scientists at the University of Washington launched the Dog Aging Project to discover whether there is a way to extend dogs’ lives by two to four years – their research is ongoing

The team have been studying whether the anti-rejection medicine rapamycin could help extend dogs’ lives

Watching your dog grow old is devastating because you know there will come a time when you have to say your goodbyes.

While you’re thankful for the years you spent together, you mourn your ‘lost time’ and can feel cheated by their short lifespan.

With the overall life expectancy for dogs at 11 years, and humans in the UK at 79 for males and 82 for females, we only get to spend about 14 per cent of our lifespan with our favorite four-legged friends.

However, a team of scientists at the University of Washington have been trying to figure out how to make dogs live two to four years longer.

The Dog Aging Project’s first of three phases aimed to discover whether the anti-rejection medicine rapamycin could help extend dogs’ lives.

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The drug helped to improve dogs’ hearts
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Picture:

Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The drug, which has been found to increase the lifespan of mice by up to 25 per cent, is already used in humans to help them accept kidney transplants.

In the initial trials, the drug was tested on 24 German shepherds, labradors and golden retrievers – and it was discovered to have improved their hearts.

Following this, the scientists tried the drug out on 50 dogs as part of phase two, while also looking at the effect rapamycin has on a dog’s cognitive function and activity.

Dr Matt Kaeberlein said: “We find that 10 weeks of low-dose rapamycin treatment in middle-aged dogs is well-tolerated, with no overt side effects relative to placebo, and with improvements in left ventricular cardiac function that are comparable to what has been previously reported from a similar regimen in middle-aged mice.”

However, despite rapamycin being shown to improve the lifespan of mice, it did not appear to have the same impact on dogs, prompting the scientists to expand their number of test subjects for phrase three.

“While there is evidence that rapamycin improves age-related deterioration of cardiac function in laboratory mice, no such effect has been demonstrated in dogs or other animals existing in a natural environment,” added Dr Matt Kaeberlein.

“Our study provides the first evidence that rapamycin may partially reverse age-related heart dysfunction in dogs by improving measures of both diastolic and systolic functions.

“Although the effects reported here do not reach statistical significance for each measure, likely due to the relatively small sample size and high individual heterogeneity, all three of the outcomes showed trends toward improved function following rapamycin treatment, and two of them reached statistical significance. “

In their next study, the team is planning to run randomized clinical trials with a larger number of middle-aged dogs who will be studied for a longer period of time.

He concluded: “This will allow us to perform more powerful analyzes of rapamycin’s effects on heart function and behavior and help us determine whether there are differences in mortality, as well as the onset and prevalence of the various diseases that share aging as their common risk factors.”

Do you have a dog story to share? Email paige.freshwater@reachplc.com.

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