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As noted here by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation, the Dog Aging Project researchers are moving ahead with a large study of companion animals. While much of the study is observational, a sizable cohort will be treated with the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin. Dogs are much closer to humans than mice, so it will be interesting to see what results. Given what is known of the way in which stress response upregulation behaves in different species, we would expect to see similar effects on cellular biochemistry – such as upregulation of autophagy – but smaller relative gains in life span in dogs versus mice. Short-lived species have a much greater plasticity of life span in response to environmental circumstances than longer-lived species, something that probably has its roots in adaptation to seasonal famine. A mouse must extend its reproductive life span by a larger proportion than a dog or a human in order to pass through a famine and carry on its lineage on the other side.
The Dog Aging Project has kicked into high gear and is recruiting 10,000 of our furry friends in what will be the largest dog aging study in history. The researchers hope that the study will also reveal more about human aging and longevity. The National Institute on Aging is funding the $23 million project, which will see a vast amount of data being collected during the five years that the project will run for. The research team will be collecting data such as vet records, DNA samples, gut microbiome samples, and information on diet and exercise.
The study chose to use dogs as they share many things with us humans, including living in the same environment and similar biology, and they even develop many age-related diseases that we do. The dogs in the study will continue to live at home and enjoy their usual daily lives, and the study will include dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds, including mutts. To be part of the study, owners will have to complete periodic surveys, take their dogs to a vet once a year for examination, and possibly have to make extra visits for additional tests. A panel of animal welfare advisors will be involved in the study to ensure that the participants are treated well. The data from the study will be made available publicly, which is great news for open science and knowledge sharing.
Five hundred lucky pooches will also be given rapamycin, which appears to slow down aging according to various mouse studies; the hope is those results will translate to the dogs in this study. Rapamycin is an immune system suppressant and is currently used in humans to prevent organ rejection during transplants. However, in smaller doses in mouse studies, it has been shown to increase lifespan. A pilot safety study in dogs found no serious side effects.