* How long has the study been going on, and is there any projection about when rapamycin will be available to the general population of dogs? The Dog Aging Project is just getting started. The first phase, to determine appropriate dosing and document cardiac improvements is now complete and we are preparing for publication. Click here for a summary. If we are able to fully fund the project, the second phase, which involves a much larger number of dogs, will take about 3 years to complete. It is impossible to predict with any certainty when rapamycin could be widely utilized as a preventative measure for age-related disorders in dogs. If the short-term study indicates that rapamycin is effective at improving cardiac function in dogs at doses without significant side effects, then some veterinarians may feel comfortable making rapamycin available to their patients.
* When this is successful, will you be looking to find a stronger drug that could extend a dog’s life even further? We expect that as research on the biology of aging continues to advance, more potent interventions to delay aging will be discovered, and we intend to translate these discoveries to improve healthy longevity of companion dogs. Of course, this will only be done if we are confident that the intervention can be applied to companion dogs safely.
* Why placebos? It is important to keep in mind that we don’t know for certain that rapamycin will have the same beneficial effects for healthy aging in dogs that it has in mice. A placebo-controlled trial is the only scientifically rigorous way to determine this. If we did not have a well-controlled trial, then many scientists and veterinarians would not feel confident in the results. In the long run, this could mean that many more dogs would not be given the opportunity to be treated with rapamycin because their veterinarian is concerned about a flawed study design and is not comfortable with the evidence we are able to provide them that rapamycin has beneficial effects on healthy aging.
* Do you have to live in America for these tests or (like me) can you live in England? Currently, we do not have any partner veterinarians outside of the United States. If we are able to identify partner veterinarians and pet owners in England or other countries who are interested in participating in the Dog Aging Project, and funding can be obtained to support those studies, we would be happy to include international dogs.
* How much longer could dogs live in good health, if these tests are successful? Rapamycin has been shown to increase lifespan up to about 25% in mice, although only a few dosing and delivery regimens have been tested, so the maximum possible extension has not yet been determined. 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 2-3 years longer, and a smaller dog might live 4 years longer. More important than the extra years, however, is the improvement in overall health during aging that we expect rapamycin to provide.
* Is it safe? 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 high doses of rapamycin can have negative side effects such as immune suppression and delayed wound healing, these are greatly mitigated at the doses used to extend longevity in small mammals, and both animal and human studies indicate that even mild adverse events are rare at low doses.
* Where will the money go? Vet costs, healthspan assays, genomics/metabolomics, and drug costs. All veterinary costs during the study period will be covered.
* Where do you acquire your dog volunteers? All dogs will be unpaid volunteers.
* Are dogs treated humanely? Yes, all dogs will only be treated by licensed veterinarians under strict regulations and in accordance with institutional animal care protocols.
* Can my dog participate in the aging study? Everyone, regardless of donation, is welcome to submit an application for consideration by licensed veterinarians.
* Is my dog too old or to young to participate in the aging study? For initial study we are asking for middle-aged dogs only. For the initial trial with rapamycin we will most likely be forced to limit enrollment to mid/large- size dogs (70-100 lbs) in the 7-9 year old range due to limited funding. If we are able to raise sufficient funds to expand the study, then we hope to include dogs outside of these parameters. In all cases, final decisions about whether a dog should be enrolled in the study will be made by our clinical veterinary partners. Even if your dog does not qualify for the rapamycin study based on the current parameters, please do submit your pet for consideration through the website. This will allow us to provide you with information as the study progresses, and to contact you when opportunities to expand the rapamycin study or to participate in other aspects of the project arise.
* Why can’t cats participate in this study? The initial study has to remain focused in order to obtain meaningful data. We plan to initiate a cat study as soon sufficient data is obtained from the Dog Aging Project to indicate a successful outcome and sufficient funding is obtained.
* Are there any side effects of rapamycin? Based on extensive studies in mice and a few studies in people, the low doses of rapamycin to be utilized in this project are not expected to cause significant adverse events. The most likely side effect from rapamycin will be defects in sperm maturation in males, which will not be a significant issue for middle-aged dogs. Other possible side effects that will be closely monitored, but are not expected to be common at these doses of rapamycin, include high circulating triglycerides, slightly impaired glucose homeostasis (akin to pre-diabetes), and cataracts. Humans taking higher doses of rapamycin also can experience rash, mouth sores, edema, impaired immunity, and slower wound healing. These will also be monitored, but are not expected at lower doses of rapamycin.
* Are you a 401c IRS category donation site? All donations to the Dog Aging Project should be made through the UW Foundation and are tax-deductible. The University of Washington is considered a governmental tax exempt entity. It is exempt from federal income taxes under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §115(1). The UW is not an IRC §501(c)(3) organization. Contributions to the University are deductible by donors under IRC §170.
* Have you considered Kickstarter as a funding option? We have considered several crowd-funding possibilities. For the initial launch of the project, we have chosen to accept donations through the University of Washington Foundation.