Mortality is a b*#ch. Let’s face it – if it weren’t for limited life spans, everything would be awesome without exception. Sure, there might be gross overpopulation, and sure, coffin sales would plummet, and sure there’d be 3,000 year old people roaming the streets boring young people with stories about dinosaurs. Still uh, hmmm…alright fine, I guess we need mortality somewhat. Regardless, if you could extend time with a loved one even just a small amount, I’m willing to bet you’d take it. Thus, we come upon the (trumpets) SUBJECT OF THE ARTICLE!
They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but the good science folks at the University of Washington at least want to teach them to live a little longer. Yes, Daniel Promislow and his cohorts are heavy into research on anti-aging. Specifically, they’re working to find out whether a chemical that extends the life of worms, fruit flies, yeast and mice may also work on dogs. According to University of Washington molecular biologist Matthew Kaeberlein, they are “not talking about doubling the healthy life spans of pets. But at a minimum I would predict that you would get a 10 to 15 percent increase in average life span, and I think bigger effects are possible.” Ooooo – we’re gonna live forever! Take that, Delorians!
Anyway, the main drug at play here is called rapamycin. Several studies have been conducted with the substance, and it has shown effectiveness in delaying disease onset and restoring some vigor to older animals, as well as extending life spans as much as 40% (Don’t tell grandpaws). While tests have been successful on smaller animals, rapamycin testing on big ol’ people would a) take much longer to find anything conclusive and b) likely result in more serious side effects. That being said, the happy medium here lies with our canine companions, and testing over the next few years could prove very beneficial to doggies and result in a lot more golden years for our pups!
“But how’s this magic drug work, Beakman?!” you’re probably asking. (Good reference on your part, by the way…) Well, Rapamycin works partially by disabling a protein that promotes cell growth, causing cells to grow more slowly. As a result, the spread of cancer is SLOWED THE EFF DOWN. As proven in the mice tests, rapamycin also has an anti-inflammatory effect, resulting in improvement of heart function; a huge development for breeds like Newfoundlands and Dobermans, who have a history of heart failure.
“How quickly can I pump my little Floofy with these miracle drugs?” you’re now probably screaming. Look, you’re going to have to hold your horses a little bit. Researches are soon beginning a study on 30 large dogs – 15 of which will receive the rapamycin, with the other 15 getting a placebo. After that, some monitoring will take place to see if the treatment results in any side effects and improves heart function or simply delays onset heart problems. Note too that these guys are trying to extend a dog’s “health span” rather than simply the life span. In other words, they want to keep dogs happier and healthier for a more extended chunk of their lives.
Eventually, the researchers hope to expand the study, with owners around the country volunteering their dogs, with the goal being to study the normal aging process of dogs, as well as the long-term effects of rapamycin and how the drug functions overall. However, since rapamycin isn’t under patent, and the project wouldn’t be funded by the National Institutes of Health, the team is hoping to find funding from more dog-specific sources, such as dog food companies and dog lovers themselves. Wanna donate? YOU CAN over at dogagingproject.com!
As for this being a process which could have altered the ending of Old Yeller, Marley and Me, and countless other films I say to them – too little, too late! Too many tears have already been spilt from my face, Science guys! That being said, it’s worth supporting this project if just because it could have resulted in us getting THIS:
Image via IMDB.
Take that, Air Buddies.