The University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project has studied the effects of a new treatment on 32 dogs between six and nine years old, and the results have shown a marked increase in lifespan.
“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,” claimed UW researchers. “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.”
The drug at the heart of the new treatment is called rapamycin (generic name is sirolimus), a drug normally administered to human patients who receive donated organs. The drug improves the ability of the body to accept the new organ and has also been used to fight cancer.
“If rapamycin has a similar effect in dogs – and it’s important to keep in mind we don’t know this yet – then a typical large dog could live two to three years longer, and a smaller dog might live four years longer,” says geneticist Daniel Promislow. “More important than the extra years, however, is the improvement in overall health during aging that we expect rapamycin to provide.”
A second and more comprehensive trial now underway involves a different group of dogs much closer together in age. The testing mirrors the rapamycin trial, however results will be measured for a longer amount a time. If the treatment shows promise, the life-extending capabilities of rapamycin could prove to be beneficial for other animals as well.
“If we can understand how to improve the quality and length of life, it’s good for our pets and good for us,“ said Promislow. ”It’s win-win.”