The Dog Aging Project is a unique opportunity to advance scientific discovery while simultaneously providing enormous benefit for people and their pets. We believe that enhancing the longevity and healthspan – the healthy period of life – in peoples’ pets will have a major impact on our lives.To accomplish this goal, we are creating a network of pet owners, veterinarians, and scientific partners that will facilitate enrolling and monitoring pets in the Project. The Dog Aging Project has two major aims, described further below: a longitudinal study of aging in dogs and an intervention trial to prevent disease and extend healthy longevity in middle-aged dogs.
Longitudinal Study of Aging in Pet Dogs
Despite the wealth of veterinary expertise in treating elderly companion animals, there has never been a comprehensive, detailed study of aging in dogs or cats. The goal of this component of the Dog Aging Project is to perform the first nationwide, large-scale longitudinal study of aging in pet dogs, where individual animals will be followed throughout life to understand the biological and environmental factors that determine why some dogs die early or succumb to diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, and dementia, while others live to a relatively old age free from these problems.
Similar longitudinal studies of aging in humans have yielded a wealth of important data, but require decades to perform. What takes decades in people will take just years in dogs. Using cutting-edge technologies, in less than a decade we could identify the critical factors that would help our pets stay healthy longer, with added bonus that we will be able to compare our outcomes to those from the human studies.
Click here if you are interested in having your dog participate in the Canine Longitudinal Study of Aging.
Rapamycin Intervention Trial in Pet Dogs
A small number of interventions have been shown to reproducibly and robustly extend lifespan in mice. Among these, the best candidate for working similarly in dogs and people is a drug called rapamycin.
In order to meet our goal of increasing healthy longevity in pet dogs, the Dog Aging Project is performing an intervention trial to treat middle-aged dogs with the FDA approved drug rapamycin. At high doses, rapamycin is used successfully in human patients to prevent organ transplant rejection and to fight cancer. At low doses, rapamycin slows aging and extends lifespan in several organisms, including mice, with few or no side effects.
The first phase of this study is complete and we are currently in the process of planning Phase 2. This next phase of the study will enroll a second cohort of middle-aged dogs into a longer-term, low-dose rapamycin regimen designed to maximize lifespan and healthspan extension. Several age-related parameters will be assessed before, during, and after the treatment period, including cognitive function, heart function, immunity, and cancer incidence. We intend for the second phase to include dogs from around the United States, and, if possible, the rest of the world.
Our primary concern is improving animal health and well being. The dogs will be closely monitored by veterinary professionals during all phases of these studies. While it is true that high doses of rapamycin can have negative side effects such as immune suppression and delayed wound healing, these are greatly mitigated if not completely absent at the doses used to extend longevity, and both animal and human studies indicate that even mild adverse events are rare.
Click here if you would like to register your dog to be considered for the long term rapamycin study.
We are actively raising funds to support all of these studies. This includes submission of grants to the National Institute on Aging as well as foundations who support aging and veterinary research. Unfortunately, the reality is that funding from these sources is limited and often takes several years to obtain.
That’s why we are also seeking donations from people who believe that research to delay aging is important and that dogs deserve longer healthier lives. Funding for these projects would directly support recruiting pet dogs into the study, veterinary costs to perform the exams and procedures, clinical and molecular assays, and bioinformatics analysis of the collected data. With your support, we have an amazing opportunity to improve the health of millions of pet dogs. If this project were fully funded, within 5 years, we may be able to increase healthy lifespan of middle-aged dogs by 2-5 years or more. Your help can make this possible.