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Dog Life: A Study to Investigate the Aging Process in a Human Best Friend



AUSTIN, Texas – A team of researchers is hoping that old dogs can learn the science of aging new tricks. Scientists, with support from the US National Institute on Aging, have launched an ambitious project that wants dog owners to enroll dogs in an aging study with a human's best friend, hoping it will help both dogs and humans live longer. and lives better

Citizen Scientists will answer dozens of questions about their lifespan, such as how often and how often they exercise, what they eat and how much, and how they interact with people or other pets in the household.

"These dogs do what they normally do," said Daniel Provislav, co-director of the Dog Aging Project.

Dog owners are well-adapted to changes in their dog's behavior, making their observations valuable to science. "It's the power to pay attention," Promdilow said.

As part of the study, a small number of dogs will provide DNA, blood and urine samples. The selected group of middle-aged dogs will also be enrolled in a double-blind, placebo-controlled drug study that has already been shown to increase the life expectancy of mice in the hope of determining whether it will have the same effect on dogs.

The ten-year-old Chihuahua is taking part in the Pavolosa Dog Fashion Show in London, Ontario, earlier this year. As small dogs, chihuahua would normally have a longer life span than larger dog breeds, such as the Great Danes.

Max Martin /

Postmedia

In the long run, the study, which has $ 22.8 million in funding from the National Institute on Aging, will help scientists understand the factors that affect "health" – the percentage of life that is spent in good health.

The project was launched last Thursday with a welcoming media conference at the annual meeting of the American Gerontological Society in Austin. Although the official goal is to enroll 10,000 dogs, researchers tend to track as many as 100,000 dogs.

Within hours of the project's announcement, 16,000 dog owners were "nominating" their pets online.

The hypothesis in gerontology circles is that, if aging can be delayed, it will also delay chronic diseases such as arthritis and Type 2 diabetes, leading to longer and healthier lives, Dr Marie Bernardi, a geriatrician, said. director of the National Institute on Aging.

Researchers have already shown that they can increase the life span of yeast, fruit flies and mice by a number of measures, including caloric restriction, periodic fasting, and administration of a combination of metformin, which lowers blood sugar, as well as the immunosuppressive drug rapamycin.

Jayaye Olshanski, a leading expert on approaching the limits of longevity, estimates that treating cancer, heart disease or humans can only extend the life span of between three and eight years. However, slowing down aging can extend life expectancy by more than 30 years and increase the proportion of lives free of chronic illness and disability.

"Those years would be spent in pretty good health," said Matt Kieberlin, co-director of the Dog Aging Project.

"It sounds like science fiction, but it's a science fact."

A woman walks her dog on Bank Street.

Tony Caldwell /

Postmedia

Nature has figured out how to modify the aging rates in different species, Kaiberlin said. The naked rat, a hoarse rodent born in East Africa, can live for more than 30 years, for example, while most mice and rats live only a few years.

The purpose of the Dog Aging Project is to understand the genetic and environmental factors behind dog aging. Dogs age about seven times faster than humans, so data on thousands of dogs over their lifetimes will provide important information on what is associated with a long and healthy dog ​​life in an accelerated time frame.

In principle, larger animals live longer than smaller animals, but the opposite is true for dogs. Chihuahua has a longer life span than Great Dane, for example, said Dr. Kate Craven, a professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University and a member of the research team. Breed dogs also live, on average, about a year longer than pure-bred counterparts.

Black Great Dane.

jsclark89 /

Getty Images / iStockphoto

Researchers will also be looking for dogs that have led extremely long lives: the dog equivalent of human centenarians.

The project is an open science initiative. Finally, the raw data, with confidential information provided by them, will be available to any researcher who wishes to use it to find patterns, including members of the public.

The study is open to dogs of all breeds and ages, but so far research funding has been limited to dogs in the United States, said Provislav.

Rapamycin has been shown to restore heart function and boost immunity in middle-aged mice. It has already been used in a small number of dogs in a research study and their owners have not noticed any adverse side effects and some positive side effects, including that the dogs have been more energetic and attractive.

“People love their dogs. Our number one priority is dog safety, "Promdilow said.

Rapamycin is approved for a limited number of human uses, including prevention of rejection during organ transplantation. It seems to exacerbate the inflammation that comes with aging, but there is still a long way to go before it can be approved as a medicine to delay aging, said Kieberlin.

This is a longitudinal study, which means that it will follow the course throughout life. While the researcher often has problems maintaining contact with their subjects in longitudinal studies, the dog owners involved in the research have been incredibly cooperative in previous long-term studies, he said.

"This is the most ambitious project for companion dogs and one of the most ambitious aging projects," said Promislau. "We have tons of data."

Anoian Lausius was awarded the Journalism Society of the Year in 2019 by the Gerontological Society of America. The program is funded by the Silver Age Foundation, the Retirement Research Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, and the A.A.A. Hartford.

A man walks with his dogs.

Sebastian Bare /

AP


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