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 Dog Aging Project is seeking pets to enroll in the study
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.
To nominate your pet for the study, please visit the Dog Aging Project’s dog registration page and complete the survey there.
An anti-aging pill for pooch
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, according to Matt Kaeberlein of the University of Washington and one of the co-directors of the Dog Aging Project.
In general, larger dogs have shorter lifespans than their small counterparts, which makes large dogs an excellent choice for testing an age-slowing drug such as rapamycin, as any positive results will be obvious sooner. As a result, only dogs weighing at least 40 pounds will be enrolled in the rapamycin experiment.
We certainly have a lot more in common with dogs than we do mice, a favorite model animal in medical research, so anything that the study learns is good for dogs has good potential to translate to humans.
If you would like to learn a bit more about the project in addition to visiting the Dog Aging Project website, you may want to check out our interview with Matt Kaeberlein, which gives more background on the project and his research.